The US administration shrugged off Bulgaria's announcement Wednesday that it planned to pull all of its troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.
A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the news came as no surprise, as the Bulgarians had already signaled their intention to withdraw from the US-led coalition.
"The United States very much values and appreciates the contribution that Bulgaria has made to the coalition in Iraq, as well as to the overall global war on terror," the official said. "They have told us that any changes in the status of their forces in the coalition will be worked out in close coordination with the coalition military authorities."
The Bulgarian defense ministry said Wednesday it had set December 31 as the deadline for all of its troops to leave Iraq. The country currently has 462 troops serving with the coalition.
Bulgaria was the latest country to announce it was pulling its forces out of Iraq. But the US official said the withdrawals were more a matter of logistics and finances than opposition to US policy.
"I don't think the political support shows any sign of flagging, either from Bulgaria or anyone else," he said.
"It doesn't seem like a withdrawal. It seems more like an announcement that at a point in the future they're going to end the provision of troops to Iraq, which is something that other coalition nations have done," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable added.
He suggested Iraqi forces could step into their roles by the time the withdrawal is complete.
"We expect to have substantially improved and increased the numbers and capabilities of Iraqi security forces by the end of the year," he said.