News / Europe

NATO Copes With Early French Afghan Withdrawal

Al Pessin

NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels this week to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan, among other issues.  The previously-scheduled gathering comes in the wake of the French president’s announcement that he wants his combat troops out of Afghanistan a year ahead of schedule. 

It was just last week that French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he wants his troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next year.  

The announcement came during a visit to Paris by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, just days after four French troops were killed by an Afghan soldier.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is taking the French announcement in stride.

“Actually, I think all this will take place within the roadmap we already outlined in November 2010, gradually transfer lead responsibility to the Afghan security forces, hopefully see that process completed by 2014," said  Fogh Rasmussen.

U.S. and NATO troops have been in Afghanistan since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They have been fighting Taliban and al-Qaida forces, and training Afghan troops to take over.

But it has been a slow process, and the NATO allies decided at a summit in 2010 to set a firm deadline for withdrawing their combat troops - by the end of 2014.  Even then, the training mission will continue.

Rasmussen says the transition to Afghan control will be well underway by the time President Sarkozy wants his troops to leave.

“Actually, there is not that much new in this debate because for a very long time we have known that from mid-2013, there will be a change - because from that time on we have handed lead responsibility to the Afghans, and we will gradually transform our operation from combat to support," he said.

Rasmussen says NATO nations, including France, will continue their training mission in Afghanistan, even beyond 2014.

Still, some experts are concerned that the French move might put NATO’s already-ambitious plan in jeopardy. Giles Merritt is the director of the Security and Defense Agenda, a Brussels think tank.

“The worry was always that there was going to be a race to the exit," said Merritt. "And I think the French going ahead of schedule, basically breaking ranks, renews the doubts about whether or not we're going to see an unseemly rush to leave Afghanistan.”

NATO has promoted a policy "in together, out together” for Afghanistan. The impact of the French move will likely be a topic for discussion at this week’s NATO defense ministers’ meeting. The ministers will also discuss missile defense and efforts to overcome financial constraints by sharing military capabilities. NATO’s top leaders are to make final decisions on some of those issues at their next summit in Chicago in May.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs