France’s pullout from Afghanistan earlier than scheduled is going to be money-losing and will likely distance Paris further from Washington – which it can’t afford, being in the shadow of the US militarily, journalist Robert Harneis explained to RT.
As French President François Hollande’s Socialist Party and its left-wing allies look set to win a majority in the lower house, the early pullout is likely to be approved by parliament.
Shortly after the attack that killed four French soldiers and injured five others, President Hollande announced the country would begin withdrawing troops in July, following his election pledge. The withdrawal is due to be completed by the end of 2012 — a year earlier than Paris initially planned, and two years before other NATO allies.
France’s Defense Minister has arrived in Afghanistan, although the full program of his visit has not been released, he is expected to address French troops and meet Afghan government officials.
Freelance journalist Robert Harneis explained to RT that the decision for an early pullout indicates Hollande is going to be ostensibly less pro-NATO. Although he says the reality is that while America has a huge military dominance, it is very difficult for any Western European country to stray very far from the American alliance.
“What difference does it actually make – that France comes out of Afghanistan a year earlier – it will actually cost France money,” he told RT. “It is more expensive to leave in a hurry than it is to leave in a more leisurely way, and it upsets allies. But the allies understand that the French have elections. But I do not think it indicates anything very fundamental."
"France is, like all the Western European countries, very much in the shadow of the US militarily," he added. "When you hear four French soldiers killed in a suicide attack and a considerable number of others injured, it is not going to encourage the French to stay any longer than they have to, but it also warns them of the dangers of taking independent initiatives.”
Alex Korbel, a spokesman for Contrepoints.org website, told RT, Hollande’s foreign policy decisions do not differ very much from those of President Sarkozy.
“To leave Afghanistan one year earlier than Sarkozy it is not really a clear change from the Sarkozy’s strategic plan,” he told RT. “The war in Afghanistan by the coalition led by the US, France and some other allies has clearly failed. It is a big defeat for the US and the Western Europe. First it was a punitive war against the Taliban, then it was a liberalization war, counter-insurgency war. The objective has changed, the strategic decisions have been really-really bad and the result is a clear failure to attain their goals.”
Political writer Diana Johnston believes that, although Hollande is not as enthusiastic about NATO as Sarkozy was, he would still adhere to the tradition of France’s Socialist Party to work towards solidarity within the alliance.
She thinks that the French stance largely depends on to what extent there is division over Iran within Washington itself. Johnston told RT “If there is opposition to war in Washington, it may be that France this time will be on the side, quietly, of those who are reluctant to go to war, rather than pushing them… and being on the war party as Sarkozy was. But really, of course, it’s Washington that decides.”