In August 2010, when the Netherlands pulled 1,900 soldiers out of the Afghan province of Urozgan, NATO officials played down the significance of the withdrawal. Dutch Gen. Peter van Uhm praised his troops for restoring peace to their area, but admitted that “a lot still has to happen” in Afghanistan to guarantee the peace.
Today, as newly elected French President François Hollande visits 3,500 French troops based in the Afghan province of Kapisa, preparing them for an early departure by the end of 2012, NATO officials are wearing the brave face again. At the Afghan summit in Chicago, no NATO official publicly criticized the French leader’s decision following a decisive victory for Hollande’s party, which had promised an early exit from Afghanistan.
“Only France can decide what France does. It will be conducted in good understanding with our allies, especially President Obama, who understands the reasons, and in close consultation with Afghan authorities," President Hollande told reporters in Kabul during a brief stopover. “Without having totally disappeared, the terrorist threat from Afghanistan to our and our allies' territory has been partially curbed," he added.