ISAF nations follow US lead, announce early troop drawdowns

On June 23, President Barack Obama announced the US plan for an early drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, to begin later this year. In the brief time that has elapsed since that announcement, the majority of the nations that comprise the International Assistance Force Coalition in Afghanistan have followed the US lead in announcing similar early drawdowns of their own.


In November 2010, NATO held a summit conference in Lisbon. One of the topics for discussion was the future plan for Afghanistan. The summit produced a target date for the handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces and the completion of a substantial withdrawal of foreign forces: December 2014. But the specific plan to get from the current state to the desired end state in December 2014 was not determined at that time.

Fast-forward to June 23, 2011, when President Obama announced the plan for the US, which would involve an early drawdown, with substantial force reductions in 2011 and 2012. The decision amounted to a rejection of the US military’s preferred option of maintaining current troop levels for the short term and starting the drawdown later, in 2013-2014.

ISAF takes cue from US plan

In the past two weeks following President Obama’s speech, many other ISAF Coalition nations have announced their own plans. It is now clear that a large majority are planning to start their drawdowns early also, in 2011 and 2012, in line with the US plan. Of the 17 nations that each contribute more than 500 troops to ISAF:

  • Twelve nations intend to reduce troops starting in 2011 or 2012; significantly, these 12 countries command more than 85% of the troops in question.
  • Three nations intend to maintain current troop levels for the time being; they command 10% of the troops.
  • Two nations intend to increase current troop levels; they command less than 5% of the troops.

Moreover, a number of these countries specifically cite the new US plan as the justification for their own early drawdowns, for example:

France: French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced in late June that hundreds of his country’s troops, out of a 4000-member contingent, will be withdrawn from Afghanistan before the end of 2011, “in a proportional manner and in a timeframe similar to the pullback of the American reinforcements”.

Poland: The head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, General Stanislaw Koziej, told TVN24 television that Warsaw’s strategy “is similar to Obama’s as we will begin reducing our presence this year and by 2014 withdraw entirely.”

Belgium: [Didier] Deweerdt [a spokesman for Defence Minister Pieter De Crem] said the proposal, which he stressed has still to go before the caretaker Belgian government, was “in line with the policy of troop reductions announced by the United States and France” since last week.

Czech Republic: [Defense Minister Alexandr] Vondra made the announcement in reaction to criticism by deputy leader of the opposition Social Democrats (?SSD), Lubom



  • Graham says:

    What I don’t understand is…why maintain a vast military presence in Afghanistan when Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and the Sahara are known terrorist hotspots?
    And even if nation-building and COIN efforts in A-Stan flawlessly succeed, what happens to Pakistan? Wouldn’t it still be a hideout?

  • Afghanistan. We have been engaged in a war in that country for over 10 years. In that time more than 1,600 American servicemen have died. For what reason? I have no earthly idea. Our Congress and our President (who was voted into office, in large part, because he said he would stop the war) have continued “to pour” both taxpayers money, and American lives down this “rat hole.” Our, esteemed, Republicans are most vocal about not leaving until “Victory” is achieved, but for some reason, the definition of “Victory” has never been voiced. It still alludes me. And until someone can pronounce the definition of “Victory”, we are doomed to stay in that “rat hole” until such time as the Congress, and the President say, “Victory Is Won”. So to help you understand the misguided logic that is in play in that most impoverished country, I give you some actual facts to ponder: Afghanistan is 99% Islam; The country has a 35% unemployment rate; The average person earns less than $1,000 a year; The economy is highly subsidized by both, China, and the U.S., and it is one of the poorest countries on earth; There are shortages of electricity and water, and most sanitary services as daily routine; The population is currently around 30 million, and as this population has been “locked in” for thousands of years, there is no reason to believe that any outside “force” will be able to change their group, social, priorities; Their economy is based, 1/3, on the production of opium, and as our culture feels that opium is not a real product, for the real world, we have attempted to convert these opium (poppy) farmers to some other profession, only to destroy an economy that was nearly non existent before we arrived to help. If the American people were not “Blind Sheep”, this war would never have started. And don’t, in anyway, be swayed by the romantic idea that we are there to help the Afghan people institute a democratic form of government. Are you following me here? The difference between the current government in Afghanistan, and our American form of government, revolves around the concept of the separation of religion from the state. The concept of democracy, the reason we are told for our being in Afghanistan, is the common element found in both governments. The main difference being that Muslims do not approve of the promiscuity, and the moral decay that they perceive to exist in the U.S. (and these differences, with certainty, are promoted by our government). Thus how can we be a role model for the citizens of Afghanistan? We need to leave immediately, and let the Afghans govern themselves, in the manner they want, regardless of our likes or dislikes of Islam. History repeats itself; humankind is stupid.
    Lord Howard Hurts

  • Charu says:

    Well, it does seem odd to be withdrawing troops just when we are finally tightening the screws on Pakistan and treating them like the enemy they have been all along. All the more that we need a strong footprint in Afghanistan to base the continuing drone war (and possibly any escalation that will be necessary if the Pakistanis are foolish enough to shoot down the drones) in Pakistan. If we don’t get Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar and Siraj Haqqani within a given time period, then we should declare war (preferably by other means; like promoting the secession of Balochistan and Pashtunistan) with the terrorist state of Pakistan.
    I hope that India will be wise enough to also re-offer us bases close to the Pakistan border to make up for the lost Pakistani bases. As I recall, this was on the table right after 9-11, before Gen. Musharraf pretended to do a 180 degree turn (and evoked the Treaty of Hudaibiyah in his address to the Pakistani people – which should have alerted us from the very beginning to the back-stabbing duplicity that was being planned).


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