News Analysis: The Issues With Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

One of the first international issues President François Hollande will have to deal with in the coming months is Afghanistan. During the campaign, the new President pledged to withdraw soldiers from Afghanistan before the end of 2012, a year earlier than expected with his predecessor. In an interview with RTL – a popular French radio news station – Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, gave further explanations on this issue. By December 31, 2,000 combat unit soldiers will be sent back to France.Some will remain to secure the repatriation of the war material convoys and will come back home during the course of 2013.

Those who will stay among the soldiers will only be responsible for training the police and coaching units, but there will be no more active combat units. At the same time, a program of civil cooperation will develop in different departments such as in the health sector. A cooperation treaty for a period of 20 years will be signed just after the parliamentary elections. Answering the fears of the Afghan people about the consequences of an expedited withdrawal of NATO forces – the combat units are due to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014 – the international community has repeated its intention to steadily “remain alongside the Afghan authorities, population and security forces, well beyond 2015”. From this, two major issues emerge.

The first concerns the definition of a new directive after the withdrawal of the tropps from Afghanistan. As a result of the announced withdrawal, the objectives of the international community after 2014 must be more precisely defined, both on the security and political levels. On the security level, the coalition forces are fully entering a transitional phase of security transfer to the Afghan forces.

But the question is, are the Aghan forces capable of ensuring national security? They will continue to receive support for “training, equipping, financing and capacity development”, as the NATO members have committed themselves at the summit in Chicago last May. Discussions continue about the importance of the mission of the allied forces after 2014. The question about the amount of contribution is not settled yet. On the political level, the transfer of responsibilities requires a better association of Afghan citizens with  the reconstruction of their infrastructure and government on the local and national level.

The second issue is legitimacy and viability for the Afghan state. President Karzaï and his government are discredited, certainly with the population now viewing the Kaboul Government with distance and distrust, but also increasingly with the international contributors who nevertheless supported them until now. The government’s inability to curb endemic corruption undermining the regime has only increased the negativity in national and international public opinion. The international community has just recently been made aware that the extent of corruption the government facilitated was as great a threat as the insurgency for Afghan stability.

We may wonder if Afghaninstan is not a new victim of occidental hubris. Trying to impose the establishment of the rule of law, democracy and civil liberties is to forget that experiencing democracy takes time, without considering the consequences of this ethno-centric approach that ignores local culture and history in order to impose an assumed universal ideology.


  1. Regis Collomp says:

    Interesting article, Caroline. IMHO, the whole campain is a total failure. The early French withdrawal will only make things worse. Sadly, there are things we just can’t change. Afghanistan for that matter.

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