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Japan Considering Exit Strategy From Iraq- Joins Italy,Ukraine,the Netherlands,Spain and Poland

Monday 16 May 2005

TOKYO (AP) - After kissing their babies and hugging their wives, 200 Japanese soldiers in combat fatigues lined up at a base in central Japan last weekend under the "Rising Sun" flag for what has become a familiar ritual _ the send-off for troops on their way to Iraq.

But this batch of soldiers may be among the last.

Nearly 18 months into its most ambitious overseas military operation since World War II, Japan is now considering whether to join a growing list of countries pulling out or scaling back their operations in Iraq in the coming months.

A pullout by Japan would be a blow for President Bush, who is struggling to keep such coalition supporters as Italy and Poland on board. Like many coalition partners, however, the troops’ fate has presented Tokyo with a difficult dilemma.

Despite the strong backing of the deployment by popular Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, public opinion remains deeply divided over whether the troops should have gone at all. Washington, meanwhile, is pushing hard for Japan’s tightly restrained military to assume a more aggressive role overseas, meaning the Iraq mission’s legacy will likely loom large for years to come.

Officials stressed on Tuesday that the future of the deployment would not be influenced by the suspected kidnapping of a Japanese security contractor _ a former paratrooper with Japan’s army _ outside a U.S. military base near Baghdad the day before.

"At the moment, it won’t affect the activities of Self-Defense Forces in Samawah," the southern Iraq city where the troops are based, defense chief Yoshinori Ono said.

Still, Tokyo seems to be leaning toward a speedy withdrawal.

Ono told a news conference last week that the end of the year was being considered as a pullout date because that would coincide with the end of the U.N. mandate.

"We hope to turn over what the Self-Defense Forces are doing to the Iraqi people as soon as possible," Ono said. But he said the situation will be carefully reviewed to determine whether withdrawing is appropriate.

Tokyo could inform other coalition countries of its plans as early as September. After withdrawing, Tokyo is expected to focus its contribution on financial aid.

If it does withdraw, Japan would be following a trend.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has said he hoped Italian forces could begin returning by September _ although he has said the decision would depend on the security situation and would be made in agreement with the United States and other allies.

Ukraine, the Netherlands and Spain have already begun pulling out. Poland _ the fourth-largest contributor of troops to the U.S.-led coalition, with 1,700 troops _ is planning on calling home its main force at the end of the year unless the U.N. Security Council renews their mandate.

The Japanese deployment has been problematic from the start.

After an intense and bitter debate in parliament, the first troops were sent to southern Iraq for a non-combat, humanitarian reconstruction mission early last year. About 550 Japanese soldiers are currently based in dusty, impoverished Samawah, a relatively peaceful Shiite stronghold.

The mission and its accompanying air and naval logistical support is Japan’s largest overseas military deployment since World War II ended in 1945.

Staking his political future on the deployment, Koizumi argued it did not violate postwar constitutional constraints that strictly limit the military to a defensive role because Samawah was not in a "combat zone." He also stressed that the troops were the only ones with the training and equipment required to carry out the mission.

To date, no Japanese soldier has been injured _ or even fired a weapon in combat _ in Samawah.

But the area isn’t completely safe.

A Dutch soldier was killed and another injured in Samawah in a grenade attack in May last year. Several mortar shells have landed in or near the Japanese base, where roughly two-thirds of the troops are assigned to security.

The humanitarian aspect of the mission has also fallen short of many expectations.

Due to the dangers, the troops are rarely allowed to leave camp, deeply hindering their ability to carry out reconstruction projects such as road-building, medical assistance and water purification.

With the troops on a short leash, the Foreign Ministry announced last December it was extending a grant of $353,000 to the French aid organization ACTED, which worked in the same area with local staff and was able to provide 550 tons of fresh water a day.

The troops quit the water purification operation _ the centerpiece of their mission _ altogether in February, handing it over to aid organizations.

Members of the military from Honduras are home, happy and safe with their families.

Forum posts

  • The sooner the Iraqis are able to secure and run their own country, the sooner everyone can go home.

    • Weren’t the Iraqis already running their country before the United States invaded it under false pretenses. And, dream on if you think the U.S. is going to willingly leave at the behest of the new "independent" Iraqi government.

    • They Americans commit genocide in Iraq. There is no exit strategy. The Nazi Dictator in the White House acts like his predecessor Adolf Hitler. Those who follow the politics of the United Staates follow also the trail of evil: terror, ambush, false accusements and torture.

      The evil politics of the United Staates should get no support by civilized countries.

    • Well said. The US isn’t leaving Iraq while there’s still a drop of oil left.

  • Japan civilians had already their lesson what America stands for. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were places of infamy!

  • Iran is a hotbed of contention not because of just the oi l profits that could be reaped should they come under military and corporate control of the invading forces and their corporation backers. The age old class warfare trick card is again being played and as always the attacking corporation interests need an "excuse" and a reason that the lower and middle class citizens should "mobilize against the enemy" which in this case has been a "case of Islamist Suicide bombing "Terrorist" extreamist vs. The Boys with the A-Bombs"

    In the current corporate global control agenda for profitable investmest AT almost ANY COST WE have the largest most advanced military powers going up to dissolve the so called terrorist element and the NewSpeak plan as "always" is to "attack the Bad Guy, Batman" with a dwindling middle class economies, massive corporate fraud in many areas, and an unsatiable LUST for ever greater profits and CONTROL. If this was not the case then why is the entire controlling investor corporation constituency of these major well armed nations HEAVILY INVESTED INTO THE GEOPOLITICAL MILITARY MIND CONTROL MACHINE of middle and lower class death and debt? Why do they own or manage major media outlets and why are they on the attack in the US and abroad against orginizations and people that simply would like to dialog about other possible ways to socially interact and develop resources than to show up with your military forces and say "your leader is a terrorist- we are here to free YOU WITH OUR GUNS!" Long live Freedom and Democracy - Could you please indicate in the check box "Are you or have you ever been a member of ... this or that???" Yes supporting your government is important especially when they seek to cut education, teachers, child programs, and to leave no child behind, while at the same time asking for lower and middle class men and women of age to join the military, risk their lives, possibly die or become psychologically marginalized, all this in support of leaders that profit from the war, the oil, the propaganda, and do not and will never lift a finger to risk their own or their childrens life for the country they speak to you in supporting with your life in the military corporation establishment control structure.

    How many children of our leaders are actually fighting "risking their massive trust fund" in this war on terror? Not to many. Most are from neighborhoods of color and economic plight which is a "damn good reason son to join the military" and die for our leaders who will profit and their families will live comfortably while those of the middle and lower class will be asked to risk their lives, and for what?

    Yes we live in the Brave New World of 2005 and of Orwellian NewSpeak, which is driven from the seemingly psychopathic agenda that any agenda or social movement that does not follow "my corporation military investor ideals and worship my GOD is "evil" and as their great books of wisdom say it’s OK to KILL YOUR ENEMY if HE DOESN’T BELIEVE IN YOUR GOD --- is the only way. Or you will be marginalized - --- This is the Borg you will be assimulated... This corporation propaganda will as part of their startegy to "state that oh you", "misunderstood the reasons of the wars" mentality which is a nice word play for control of the discussed agenda away from the facts to bring up not the actual involved people and miltary personal and ask them what it is that they are actually doing --- BUT to HIDE like scared chickens behind the "TOP SECRET", thats "CLASSIFIED" which is the NewSpeak way of hiding your agenda publically and this mind control method is one of the oldest and tired methods of subverting the agenda through the chain of command control which must be in place for this type of propaganda control to work.

    This is then information profiling, and scope and range of discussion management by appealing to the IMORAL and ILLEGAL human mode of misinformation programming through secret agendas. - This message was brought to you by the concerned and the observant. Thank you and have pleasent day. Remember if they won’t discuss your facts or ideas they are spewing Self Serving Propaganda with possible little or no regard for those they will influence by it!