Sunday, April 06, 2008

Cold feet in the Hindu Kush?


This hasn't gotten as much play in the United States as might have been expected.

Bush got what he wanted in Bucharest last week; at least when they are talking to the press, NATO governments have committed to stay in Afghanistan for the long haul.

But there are plenty of grumblings. In Canada, which has lost 82 soldiers in that country as of today, there is serious dissension. Haroon Siddiqui responded to the NATO plan in the Toronto Star:

Canadians haven't got any more clarity on our mission there than before the NATO summit

Meanwhile the German newspaper, Der Spiegel claims that diplomats, led by the Germans, are working on an exit strategy.

So far, little has remained behind closed doors at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Almost every cough from every negotiating session has found its way into the press. But there is one paper that has remained largely in the shadows. NATO diplomats have been working on a far-reaching strategy paper for the ongoing mission in Afghanistan.

According to diplomats, there are indeed some interesting details to be found. The paper illustrates a new train of thought developing within NATO: For the first time, a step-by-step outline has been sketched -- with substantial help from Germany -- for when the 47,000 NATO troops currently in Afghanistan might be pulled out. According to diplomats, concrete benchmarks are laid out -- though any withdrawal, they make clear, would not be immediate.

It is no accident that Germany has played a big part in the drafting of the paper. It has long been clear in Berlin that Germany's involvement in the mission has a limited shelf-life given widespread opposition among the German populace and growing doubts in parliament.

Is popular sovereignty pushing to the fore in Germany?

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