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      Monday
      Jul042011

      Obama’s De-Escalation Decision Pushed Canada, France Toward the Exits

      Since publishing this analysis in The Nation on June 23, the momentum of Western de-escalation from Afghanistan has quickened with Canada and France announcing further withdrawals. "Last Canadian Combat Troops Leaving Afghanistan" blared the headline of CTV Ottawa on June 30.

      On their last mission in Kandahar Province, Canada’s Bravo Company confiscated a few rocket launchers and burned 1,000 pounds of marijuana as they retreated from Panjwaii district where they have been fighting since 2005. Twelve hours after Obama’s announcement, France said it would begin a phased withdrawal of their 4,000 troops. The "momentum for withdrawal appeared to have been given a new impetus by Mr. Obama’s announcement," wrote John Burns in the New York Times, citing "a growing sense of the tide turning in the Western military commitment to Afghanistan."

      The momentum of de-escalation drew criticism from U.S. senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, who flew to Kabul to express their displeasure, echoing earlier calls for a slower, smaller withdrawal by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and new CIA director David Petraeus. In step with the Pentagon’s position, Britain’s former top military commander, Jock Stirrup, complained that the troop withdrawals were driven by electoral pressures in the United States and France, where presidential elections take place in 2012.

      The challenge for the peace movement is to find new ways to be relevant as Obama campaigns on turning the tide towards peace in Afghanistan. Three priorities seem most important: to push Obama beyond his promise of 33,000 U.S. troops out by September 2012, to advocate and support negotiations towards a diplomatic surge as the troops numbers decline, and to demand that the 47,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq come home. Beyond those objectives, there is the continuing secret war conducted mainly by drones in Pakistan, the escalated interventions in Yemen and Somalia, and the bloody bombing of Libya, where French and Canadian troops have been dispatched after Afghanistan.

      The U.S. Long War doctrine explains how the multiple wars continue to deepen even as the U.S. lessens its "footprint" in the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq.

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