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More on the shrinking of the Coalition of the Willing. Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands are taking a hike, and Japan’s thinking hard about it. (AP)

In a blow to U.S. efforts to keep countries from deserting the multinational force, Hungary said this week it won’t keep troops there beyond March 31. The Czechs plan to pull out by the end of February, the Dutch soon afterward. And Japan is feeling pressure to withdraw.

There could be even more troop pullouts after Iraq holds elections in January and nations feel their obligations have ended. The United States has about 142,000 troops in Iraq.

“We should never have sent troops to Iraq. Bringing them back now is already too late,” said Janos Fekete, a Budapest shopkeeper.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding