Russia’s foreign minister sharply criticized NATO’s plan to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014, saying Thursday that coalition troops should remain in the country until Afghan government forces are capable of ensuring security.
“As long as Afghanistan is not able to ensure by itself the security in the country, the artificial timelines of withdrawal are not correct and they should not be set,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
NATO plans to hand over lead responsibility for the war against the Taliban to the Afghan army and police by the middle of next year, then withdraw its troops by the end of 2014. The alliance already has started drawing down its forces, which reached a peak of about 140,000 last year….
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance’s secretary general, responded to Lavrov’s criticism by saying the Afghan government has agreed with the withdrawal schedule, and that it is “definitely not artificial.” He also urged Russia, China and other non-NATO countries to help fund the post-2014 Afghan armed forces….
Moscow views NATO’s military effort in Afghanistan as crucial for its own security, including helping to prevent instability from spreading into ex-Soviet Central Asia.
Russia has been helping NATO supply its forces in Afghanistan by allowing the movement of materiel through its territory.
Russia, which is not a NATO member, has provided the alliance with air corridors and railway routes for carrying supplies to and from landlocked Afghanistan. The link has become particularly important since Pakistan blocked NATO supplies from crossing its territory following an alliance airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani border troops in November.
On Thursday, Lavrov and NATO ministers discussed a plan to give the alliance a new logistics facility on Russian territory to transfer military cargo to and from Afghanistan.
The proposal, now being considered by Russian lawmakers, would for the first time allow alliance members to set up a logistics facility in Ulyanovsk, Russia, for troops and cargo.
Officials said there were “no differences” between the two sides on the use of the air base in Ulyanovsk.
“We expect to expand the transit options offered to us by Russia … to Afghanistan,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after the meeting. “We appreciate very highly Russia’s contribution, which is based on our shared interests and contributes to our shared security.”
Meanwhile, Gwynne Dyer offers a reality check on the looming end of the intervention (“The lies of Afghanistan,” Straight.com, 16 April 2012):
If this were the Vietnam War, we would now have reached about 1971.
The U.S. government has already declared its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan in two years’ time, just as it did in Vietnam back in 1971. Richard Nixon wanted his second-term presidential election out of the way before he pulled the plug, just as Barack Obama does now.
The Taliban is obviously winning the war in Afghanistan now, just as North Vietnam’s troops were winning in South Vietnam then. The American strategy at that time was satirized as “declare a victory and leave”, and it hasn’t changed one whit in 40 years. Neither have the lies that cover it up.
The U.S. puppet government in South Vietnam only survived for two years after U.S. forces left in 1973. The puppet government in Kabul may not even last that long after the last American troops leave Afghanistan in 2014. But no western general will admit that the war is lost, even though their denial means that more of their soldiers must die pointlessly.