France and luxury expenses
France has announced that it will begin to drawdown its combat forces in Afghanistan:
France is leaving Afghanistan. Though President Obama has committed to reducing America’s footprint in Afghanistan beginning July 2011, the withdrawal of another ally is likely to add an additional layer of challenge to maneuver that reduction….
There are approximately 3,500 French troops in Afghanistan, stationed mostly to the east of Kabul. France has had soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001…
France has joined both the Netherlands and Canada in recent announcements of pullouts from Afghanistan…
The Taliban have had a good year. Peak Foreign Forces is now and the Taliban seems to be doing an effective job of not fighting set piece battles where ISAF forces have all the advantages. Instead, Marjah tactics of going to the ground, pulling out of areas ahead of large scale sweeps while reinfilitrating after the headlines are over in order to target the “Hold and Build” elements of the US clear-hold-build COIN strategy seem to be working in Khandahar. The Karzai government is beginning to look out for its own interests and is willing to cut deals with the relevant long term and local players while telling its primary funders to take a flying leap off the Hindu Kush.
The announcement that France is pulling its short brigade out of Afghanistan in the next year is further evidence that the Taliban is having a good year. I argued in September 2009 that 2010 would be a good year if the costs of occupation and COIN are increasingly focused on the United States:
2010 will be a good year if the Taliban is able to force the withdrawal of at least three national contingents by the start of 2011.
The French decision makes sense as the French government is making significant cuts in its outlays, including a vicious fight over pension policy. It is extraordinarily difficult to tell older voters who make up a significant portion of Sarkozy’s winning coalition to suck it up and work for another couple of years while funding a war of choice in a tertiary theater of French interest. Expeditionary militaries engaged in COIN are expensive and seldom advance the national interest to a degree sufficient to offset the costs when hard trade-offs are being made:
Austerity should mean cutting out the luxury expenditures first. And in the minds of most voting publics, Afghanistan as it is currently funded is a luxury expenditure.
Great Britain’s recently announced defense cuts strongly indicate that they are on a glidepath to withdrawal within the next two years as the British military will be faced with future cuts as a double-dip recession will whack British tax revenues even harder than projected and cuts are easier to predict than increased revenue over the short term.