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Western public turns against Afghan mission

FRANCE: The governments of countries that sent troops to Afghanistan are now facing increasingly hostile public opposition to the war as more soldiers die in a distant land and no end appears in sight.

“Public opinion no longer accepts a scenario in which deaths are futile and the timetable uncertain,” said Dominique Moisi of the French Institute of International Relations.

Domestic public pressure was one of the factors that led Britain, France and Germany to call for an international conference on Afghanistan later this year to press Afghans to take more responsibility for their own country, he said.

The summit will make clear to countries involved in Afghanistan “what job they have to do and what our common aim is,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.

An air strike ordered by a German commander in Afghanistan last week that left scores dead has moved what was already an unpopular mission up the political agenda ahead of German general elections this month. German popular opposition to the mission is echoed in many of the 42 states contributing to the 100,000-strong international force in Afghanistan, 65,000 of whom form the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

In the United States, which provides around two-thirds of the foreign troops, a CNN poll last week showed 57 percent now oppose the war in Afghanistan and 40 percent believe it cannot be won.

Obama has put Afghanistan at the heart of his foreign policy, saying like many other leaders of troop-contributing countries that the Taliban must be beaten in order to curb the threat of terrorism worldwide.

For months he has been calling for new thinking in Afghanistan to counter Taliban attacks, now happening at the highest rate since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Islamist regime.

But the US public, dismayed by the death of 184 American soldiers so far this year, has not swung behind the president’s plans.

The governments of Canada and Australia are also struggling to explain to their electorates why their soldiers are dying in a country many thousands of miles away, Moisi said. PARIS, Wednesday, AFP

 

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