The War in Afghanistan seems, after nearly a decade of fighting, to be winding down finally with several countries withdrawing troops between July of this year and the end of 2014. Last November, as readers may remember, NATO leaders endorsed a plan to start handing Afghan forces command of the war this year and ceding full control of security to Afghan forces by 2014.
The Canadian combat mission, of course, ends this month—and I’m thankful for that.
Last night, President Barack Obama told his nation of a plan to start withdrawing U.S. troops, in effect, giving his NATO allies a welcomed blueprint and timetable for a drawdown of their own forces. President Obama’s news was timely with U.S. allies facing dwindling support in their own countries for the war—in some cases, outright opposition to the conflict.
President Obama said he will bring home 33,000 troops by next summer—10,000 troops will go home by the end of this year, to be followed by as many as 23,000 by the end of next summer. That will leave about 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Under the president’s plan, a security handoff to the Afghan government will be complete and all American combat troops will return home by the end of 2014.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain had already planned to pull all of its 10,000 troops out by the end of 2014, assuming “conditions on the ground” do not allow an earlier withdrawal.
In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said his country will begin its drawdown by year’s end. Germany has about 4,900 troops in a part of northern Afghanistan that has been relatively calm, but has seen increasing fighting in recent years.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France, with some 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, will start “a progressive pullout” on a similar timetable to that proposed by President Obama.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today that 1,500 Australian personnel would remain in Afghanistan until 2014, as planned.
In Brussels, a NATO representative said a number of smaller member states are now “actively looking” at reducing their contingents over the next 12 months.
The time is near when Afghanistan will have to sink or swim as a nation. Many would like to make a case that too many lives and too much money has already been spent on that wretched land. That country’s corrupt, duplicitous leadership cannot expect foreign solders to continue indefinitely to die so they can prosper.
A pull out by the end of 2014 sounds reasonable to me.