German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO members and their allies shouldn’t rush to leave Afghanistan, signaling tension within the alliance over France’s vow to leave by year’s end.
Allies in Afghanistan that entered the conflict should withdraw together and Germany will “resolutely defend” that stance, Merkel told reporters today at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Chicago.
France’s new president, Francois Hollande, said on May 18 that he will keep to his campaign pledge to withdraw French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, sooner than the U.S. and other allies plan.
NATO members gathering in Chicago are seeking to reach consensus on the way ahead in Afghanistan, a task that will test U.S. President Barack Obama’s diplomatic skills and the political cohesion of the 63-year-old group.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said a rapid unraveling of allied support in Afghanistan risks losing ground gained in recent years.
“A race to withdrawal would only strengthen those who want to sow insecurity,” Westerwelle said in Chicago.
Nations involved in the conflict should “stick with what we agreed” to for a timetable to turn over security responsibility to Afghan forces, Westerwelle said.
Obama has a 2014 deadline for NATO to transfer all combat operations to Afghan security forces. Last year he said that the 33,000 U.S. troops sent in to stabilize the conflict will withdraw by September 2012, just before the U.S. election.