Thursday, 2 February 2012

Afghan Withdrawal Debate Online!

Twitter allows participants in the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels to share a few thoughts. After US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday that:
Hopefully by the mid to later part of 2013 we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise and assist role,This doesn't mean we're not going to be combat-ready, but rather that the U.S. and other international forces will no longer be in the formal combat role we're in now.
This followed French President Sarkozy's announcement that France would withdraw forces from the country by the end of 2013, prompted by the killing of French soldiers by an Afghan trainee. This posed major problems for NATO as France plays a major role in the training mission for Afghan security forces.

This set the scene for an interesting discussion this morning, but the row-back started early. This morning as US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder tweeted that:
Day 1 of  DefMin w/ . Transition in will be key issue. Making good progress; need to stay -agreed course
This was quickly followed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeting that:
  decisions in Lisbon remain bedrock of our strategy in. Alliance will stick to agreed Lisbon target
Expect start transition last group  districts and provinces mid-2013. Complete transition to full security responsibility by end 2014
However, the difference seems to be one of emphasis rather than great substance. Wired are reporting a NATO background briefing on the topic:
In a background briefing for reporters, a NATO official I’m not allowed to name pointed to mid-2013 as the beginning of the final phase for its “transition” to Afghanistan control. By then, the “lead responsibility for the planning and conduct of operations” against the Taliban will fall to the Afghan soldiers and police (and militiamen) that NATO trains, the official said. In other words, the heavy lifting on the transition will basically be done by 2013, not 2014.
 US experts say that Panetta's announcement would not mean a much faster or deeper drawdown than currently planned, simply a shift in the way the mission is carried out.

There won;t be final announcements on this today or tomorrow, but expect something at the Chicago Summit.

No comments: