France mulls quicker Afghan withdrawal after Osama bin Laden's death
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said Osama bin Laden's death is a chance 'to reflect' on the war effort and that an early withdrawal of its troops has not been excluded.
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The idea is still largely rhetorical, with senior European officials describing ongoing needs to help Afghans build their state and work toward peace.
But in light of Mr. bin Laden's death, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said today that France will "take some time to reflect, to see what conclusions can be drawn over the coming months from what has just happened." Mr. Juppé, addressing reporters after meeting with the Pakistani prime minister in Paris, said early withdrawal has not been excluded.
Many French security analysts agree that troop departure should be on the table. Christophe Jaffrelot, a senior research fellow at the Center for International Studies and Research, suggested, “European and American interests converge as a result of [bin Laden’s] death. In other words, when can we pull the plug in Afghanistan? It is a good excuse, one more reason to ask, ‘OK, what is the goal in Afghanistan?' "
France and Italy each have about 4,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan. Germany has 5,000, Poland has 2,500, and Spain has 1,500. The Dutch contingent has already been drawn down to some 200. The US has some 90,000 troops deployed following a “surge” by the White House designed to set the pace for an eventual draw down.
If France presses for an early pullout, it will likely face opposition within Europe. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today that, "As far as Bin Laden is concerned, it doesn't mean that our operation in Afghanistan will change. We shall stay the course in Afghanistan."