Tuesday, May 17, 2011

US alarmed by David Cameron's push for early Afghanistan withdrawal

Killing Osama bin Laden will have many effects on the future for both the US and al Qaeda. If the United States reason for invading Afghanistan was to battle the Taliban who were protecting Osama bin Laden, then the his death conceivably means there is no more reason to have troops there. Simplistic perhaps but follow the logic for a moment.

David Cameron wants to bring UK troops home now. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been politically disastrous for British prime ministers. A report last year had estimated combat operations in Afghanistan cost the UK approximately 20 billion British pounds (roughly $32 billion at today's exchange rate). There have been over 350 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Part of the reason NATO troops were brought in was the UK desire to draw down forces as far back as 2004. British forces are also committed to Odyssey Dawn, the no-fly zone in Libya. Cameron knows his political life depends on making good on his promise to bring UK troops home and with Osama bin Laden dead, there is little incentive to stay.

For the US, this means a split with a major ally at a time when al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah are renewing their efforts for attack. A split could be seen as an opportunity to strike at over-committed US forces. The recent scandal of IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) has most of Europe suspecting a US conspiracy to discredit DSK and thus pullout of the IMF. The US is losing much of its European support. The loss of support may embolden a terrorist attack.

Politically for both the UK and US maintaining troops in Afghanistan has become a hard sell. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and the potential for Taliban operatives to gain control is an unacceptable option for those in the Beltway. The average American is much more concerned about why gas prices remain high despite a drop in crude oil. The turmoil in Syria could renew the 1967 war with Israel. If a conflict erupts, the US may have to go in alone to support Israel and that could be exactly the move pan-Islamist have been needing.


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