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Europe, don't go wobbly on Afghanistan

Pressure is building in Germany, which faces elections Sunday, and elsewhere to withdraw troops. Leaders such as Angela Merkel must explain the grave risk of a cut-and-run strategy.

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Germans hold national elections Sunday, and many voters must feel they're in a bind. Most of the public wants to reduce or pull the country's 4,200 soldiers from Afghanistan. But leaders of the main parties counter that Germany should hang in there.

Only one party – a smaller one of former communists and far-left sympathizers – demands immediate withdrawal.

This political disconnect makes for a tricky situation, not just in Germany – which has a historic aversion toward troop deployments – but also for NATO, which must preserve unity among its member nations fighting the Taliban.

Wars can't be maintained without public support at home. That's seriously eroding in the US and sorely lacking among key NATO allies. Sixty percent of Britons want to reduce troops or withdraw them, according to the Transatlantic Trends survey by the German Marshall Fund; 51 percent of French agree. Italians, too, are dismayed by last week's suicide-bomb killing of six Italian troops in Kabul.

This explains why Germany, France, and Britain propose a UN-Afghan conference to set new timelines and benchmarks for handing more responsibility to Afghans. The meeting is a way for political leaders to show they hear their citizens, while buying time for the war to succeed.


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