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 Afghan war had strong support in Europe immediately after 9/11, with governments participating partly to bolster NATO unity and partly to help the Afghans. But following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 – controversial in Europe and opposed by France – a perception developed here of diminished US emphasis on Afghanistan, and ardor for troops in the Hindu Kush waned. The “global war on terror” became seen as an amorphous fight without end. The Taliban's regrouping and offensives led to questions about exit.Skip to next paragraph
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The election of President Obama was seen as a step toward eventual withdrawal, now slated for 2014. British casualties have made the war unpopular, and the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London was seen partly as a way of transferring security responsibility to the government of Hamid Karzai. European analysts in the past year have increasingly compared the conflict with the Vietnam War.
The war was unpopular enough in the Netherlands to bring a government down in 2010 over a dispute of deploying troops; Germans have only in the past year been defining their deployment in terms of fighting rather than peacekeeping; the rout and killing of a dozen French troops in 2008 brought home how unpopular the deployment was here.
Yet the price of departure and the US “surge” under Obama has kept the operation gamely moving forward.
Bin Laden’s last recorded video singled out France for its recent policies designed to restrict the burqa, or full-length veil, worn by many orthodox Muslim women. In response, President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that France would "not let anyone, and certainly not terrorists, dictate its policy.”
Both ruling party and Socialist members of the French parliament have spoken of reducing numbers of troops since the US announcement of a successful raid against bin Laden in Pakistan.