WASHINGTON – Expressing dismay about a close ally, the White House said Thursday the Philippines (search) was sending "the wrong signal to terrorists" by withdrawing its military forces from Iraq (search) to save the life of a kidnapped truck driver.
"There is no negotiation with terrorists," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "There is no separate peace with terrorists."
The Philippines said it would remove its 51 peacekeepers from Iraq early to save the life of abducted driver. The Southeast Asian country earlier vowed it would not yield to pressure to move up its previously scheduled Aug. 20 withdrawal.
Spain was the first member of the coalition to leave, pulling its 1,300 troops out after a pre-election terrorist attack in Madrid (search). Honduras and the Dominican Republican moved their few hundred troops out in the spring.
McClellan noted that other countries have not yielded to terrorist pressure. "I think that the international community, by and large, recognizes the importance of confronting and defeating these terrorists," he said. "And they recognize that you cannot have a separate peace with those terrorists."
The president's spokesman cited the recent United Nations (search) resolution expressing support for the interim government in Iraq and NATO's commitment at its recent summit in Turkey to help train Iraqi security forces. He said Australia recently said it would expand the number of troops it has in Iraq, and that El Salvador had pledged to move forward on a proposal that would extend the time its troops would be in Iraq for up to another year.
The ongoing violence, however, led Iraq's new premier to issue a plea for help Thursday from nations with large Muslim populations, including India, Pakistan and Egypt. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he also was looking for soldiers from Bangladesh and Morocco, apparently hoping the Islamic insurgents targeting Western forces and civilians would be less likely to attack Muslim troops.
While criticizing the Philippines' decision, McClellan indicated it would not affect Manila's relationship with Washington. "We'll continue to work together on shared priorities," he said. "I think it's, again, just disappointing that they came to this decision."