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March 28, 2003

Q&A: What Is the "Coalition of the Willing?"

From the Council on Foreign Relations, March 28, 2003

What is the "coalition of the willing?"

The group of nations that Bush administration officials describe as America's partners in the U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein. The vast majority of the fighting forces come from only two countries: the United States and Great Britain.

How many troops have coalition members deployed?

U.S. deployments currently total roughly 250,000. The British deployment is about 45,000 personnel. There are also about 2,000 Australian troops and smaller numbers of other forces in the region.

Why does the United States need a coalition?

From the start of its confrontation with Iraq, the Bush administration has tried to create the impression that its drive to topple Saddam has broad international support. Having allies--even some who do little more than lend their names to the war--is apparently meant to undercut widespread criticism that the world's sole superpower is acting unilaterally.

Who are the coalition members?

According to the Bush administration and press reports, they are: Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Uganda, and Uzbekistan. Noticeably absent are major powers like France and Japan that were members of the coalition that overturned Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1991.

Are all the members "willing?"

No. Officials in some of the countries have distanced themselves from participating in the war. For example, the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has sharply criticized the attacks on Iraq, and the government of the Netherlands has assured its citizens that Dutch forces won't enter combat.

Other countries have not been named publicly but are likely members of the coalition. They include Israel, as well as several Arab states that are providing bases or other assistance to the war: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt.

To what extent have non-American and non-British coalition forces joined the war effort?

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, in an op-ed on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, wrote that the Australian Navy is supporting coalition troops and clearing mines, Polish special forces are defending an oil platform, a Danish submarine is patrolling nearby waters, and "Czech and Slovak special chemical- and biological-weapons response forces" are standing by to respond to bio-warfare attacks.

In addition, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE have sent 8,000 troops to Kuwait in a largely symbolic effort to help defend that country. They do not have a combat role.

What about other coalition members?

Rice wrote that they are providing "supplies, logistical and intelligence support, basing and over-flight rights, and humanitarian and reconstruction aid."

How does that compare with the first Gulf War coalition?

In the 1991 war, the coalition numbered some 35 countries. Members sent aircraft, equipment, and about 150,000 troops to support about 500,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The British, as now, sent a large combat contingent; other nations, including France, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, contributed combat units to help drive Iraqi occupiers from Kuwait. Coalition members also financed most of the cost of the 1991 war. This time, the United States will foot most of the bill; President Bush on March 25 asked Congress for $75 billion to finance the war.

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