Afghanistan: NATO’s Time Running Out
Holland became the first NATO member to pull out of Afghanistan. How long before the rest follow?
The Netherlands became the first NATO member to quit Afghanistan Sunday, when it withdrew its 1955 troops.
As I note in my New Atlanticist essay, “Afghanistan Clock Ticking,” ISAF will survive the tactical loss, which amounts to a rounding error in the daily muster, but the symbolism is quite another matter.
The United States is already providing the lion’s share to the troops, with its 78430 contingent more than 8 times the contribution of the next leading country, the UK, and more than 17 times that of Germany, the number three supplier. And the totals are even more skewed when one recognizes that the U.S. has almost as many troops in Afghanistan outside ISAF as in.
But we’ve managed to at least maintain the illusion that this is a NATO fight rather than an American one. That won’t last much longer. Canada’s 2700 troops will follow the Dutch example in 2011 and Poland’s 2600 in 2012.
While the commitment of our European Allies gets the most attention, America’s is far from set in stone. There is, after all, President Obama’s mysterious July 2011 deadline. What happens on that date? No one seems to know. There will be a strategic review this December — by which point very little is likely to have changed — with a decision on where to go from there to follow.
But it’s worth noting that Obama is up for re-election in November 2012 and that polling on the war is down. According to a Gallup survey released today, 43% of Americans think going to war in Afghanistan — the country which housed the architect of the 9/11 attacks — was a mistake and a whopping 57% disapprove of Obama’s handling of the conflict. The same number approve of a withdrawal time-table, compared to only 38% supporting staying “until the situation gets better.” Of the former, two thirds support a timetable for gradual withdrawal, whereas only a third support withdrawing “as soon as possible.”
This war simply isn’t sustainable very much longer.