Yet another US ally is to start pulling its troops out of Iraq. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi went on television to announce his decision, adding that he was in discussions with his British counterpart Tony Blair about a total exit strategy from the country. The Italian pullout begins in September.
It comes fast on the heels of similar decisions by the Dutch, Ukrainians, Bulgarians and Poles. Spanish troops left Iraq last year.
Until now Italy has been one of the staunchest supporters of President Bush’s Iraqi campaign, supplying the fourth largest military contingent. However Berlusconi has faced strong public disapproval.
Reacting to the Italian decision, White House spokesman Scott McClellan fended off questions over whether it was linked to the killing by US forces of Nicola Calipari, saying he had heard not anything about that from Italy.
Intelligence agent Calipari was shot by American soldiers after he had helped free a kidnapped journalist and was driving her to Baghdad airport. He was given a state funeral and hailed as a national hero.