Romania’s PM Tariceanu announced yesterday that he wants to withdraw Romania’s troops from Iraq.
Right now here are about 900 Romanian soldiers there — one full battalion, with the catchy name of “The Red Scorpions”. They’re deployed in the Al-Nasyria area. They don’t do combat operations. There’s an intelligence team and some de-miners. 900 non-combat soldiers may not sound like a lot, but they made Romania the fifth largest member of the coalition (after the US, Britain, South Korea and Italy).
Why were they there? Well, Romania places a high value on the security relationship with the US. (A cynic might suggest that they’re keeping up the payments on their national security insurance policy.) The numbers involved are not large, Romanian casualties have been very light (one death in three years, to a roadside bomb), so up until now it hasn’t seemed like a very expensive investment on Romania’s part.
The withdrawal isn’t a done deal, BTW. PM Tariceanu must ask the Defense Council for permission; unlike a US President, he isn’t Commander in Chief of the armed forces. And President Basescu (who until recently was saying that the troops should stay “until democracy is established”) may yet weigh in.
From a little distance, I have the impression of a government edging cautiously towards the door, floating a trial balloon and waiting to see how everyone else reacts.
Note that the new government of Italy is sharply cutting Italy’s military commitment to Iraq; the troop count there has dropped from 2,700 to 1,600, and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema says all troops will be out by early 2007. That would leave the Poles (900 troops) and the Danes (550) as the only European countries other than Britain with significant numbers of troops in Iraq. (Hereby somewhat arbitrarily defined as more than 200 men. There are a dozen or so countries with 20 or 50 or 100 there.)
European countries that had significant troop levels in Iraq, but then left:
Spain — 1,300, left April 2004 (Zapatero government)
Hungary — 300, December 2004
Netherlands — 1,300, left March 2005
Ukraine — 1,600, left December 2005 (Yushchenko government)
Bulgaria — 460, left May 2006
So, there were nine (counting Britain); five have left, one looks getting ready to go, that would leave three.
No further comment, just taking note.