Following the surprise announcement by French President Nicholas Sarkozy on Friday that France would increase the speed of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving the country by the end of next year, instead of 2014 as originally planned, Prime Minister David Cameron has criticised the move. Mr Cameron said that Britain would stick to the original NATO withdrawal plan for leaving the country by 2014 and that any withdrawal should be dependent on the progress made in the country. Many view the announcement by Mr Sarkozy as a bid to win support ahead of next year’s French elections. The war is hugely unpopular in France and the recent killing of four French soldiers by an Afghan military trainee has made the move an easy electoral win for Sarkozy.
Mr Cameron made the remark while meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at Chequers to sign an agreement that promises Britain will continue giving aid to the impoverished country after the withdrawal of British troops. The meeting by Mr Karzai is the latest in his tour of European capitals as he attempts to get continued aid from NATO governments as backing for the war in NATO countries continues to fall. The Afghanistan Government is heavily reliant on aid for its survival.
Mr Cameron said that while there are clearly opportunities, between now and the 2014 withdrawal date, for Government’s to reduce their troop numbers, with Britain having already withdrawn 500 troops from the country, any withdrawals should be solely dependent on the progress within the country. He said that basing withdrawal of troops on progress was the only way to help ensure a ‘strong, stable and peaceful Afghanistan.’ The news that France was withdrawing its 3,600 troops early caused alarm for a member of the Afghanistan parliament for the region the troops are stationed. The MP said that the Afghan forces in the area cannot be relied upon to provide security for the region. There has been much concern among military members in various NATO countries recently as the withdrawal date approaches that not enough progress has been made and that the country could fall into chaos when the withdrawal occurs.