Under strong pressure from Nato allies and Washington the Dutch prime minister was pressed to extend the Afghan mission, despite its pledge to withdraw 1,600 troops this year from Uruzgan province. His Labour party coalition partner, who opposed the extension, walked out of crisis talks and the government fell.
Some European nations have been reluctant to boost their troop levels limiting their contributions mainly to instructors for the Afghan army and police. Opinion polls report that a solid majority of Germans oppose their country’s military role in Afghanistan, but as yet the German government continues to support the operation.
On TV in January President Sarkozy said that France will send groups of trainers, but not combat troops to Afghanistan. Public opinion there is generally opposed to the continued military involvement in Afghanistan.
In the United Kingdom public opposition to the war in Afghanistan is increasing. A BBC poll found 64% of Britons believe the war is “unwinnable” and 63% of those surveyed felt UK troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible.
The German defence minister rebutted the charge made in a BILD interview by US General Stanley McChrystal who challenged the Germans to take more risks in the fight against the Taliban – the words ‘kick butt’ appear in other articles. A Wing Commander of the British army added “When it comes to counter-insurgency the Germans always think of guerrilla warfare. You are trapped in your guilty conscience and therefore don’t go hard enough against the Taliban.”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the civilian NATO secretary-general, doesn’t believe that the Dutch decision to withdraw its troops from southern Afghanistan this year will lead other European allies to follow suit.
We shall see.