The European Union no longer believes that US and Nato forces can succeed in Afghanistan, but continues to commit troops to the fight “out of deference to the United States”, the EU president is quoted as saying in leaked US diplomatic cables.Herman Van Rompuy, who at the time was president-designate, was quoted as telling Howard Gutman, the US ambassador to Belgium, in December 2009 that 2010 would be the “last chance” for Afghanistan in European eyes.
“Europe is doing it and will go along out of deference to the United States but not out of deference to Afghanistan,” Van Rompuy is quoted as saying in the cable posted by the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website on Sunday.
“No one believes in Afghanistan any more. But we will give it 2010 to see results. If it doesn’t work, that will be it because it is the last chance. And if a Belgian gets killed, it would be over for Belgium right then.”
The cable did not detail Van Rompuy’s complaints about the conflict in Afghanistan, and did not say whether it was the government in Kabul or the drawn out war with the Taliban that was the primary source of EU frustration.
About 30,000 European troops are on the ground in Afghanistan as part of the Nato-led International Security Force. The total US and Nato force in the country is about 150,000-strong.
Members of the Nato military alliance, which includes the EU countries contributing troops, agreed at a summit in Lisbon last month that responsibility for security would be handed over to the Afghans from 2011, with the country’s security forces taking complete control by 2014.
Nato and the US have sustained heavy losses during the nine-year conflict in Afghanistan and there are very few signs that the violence is slowing.
More than 670 foreign soldiers have been killed this year, according to a count based on figures kept by the independent icasualties.org website. That figure is up from 2009 when 521 were killed.
The latest casualties came on Sunday as the leaked cable was published as two Nato soldiers and two Afghan troops were killed in a suicide attack close to a joint military base in Gardez, the provinical capital of eastern Paktia province.
However, the EU’s weariness with the conflict in Afghanistan could also stem from anger with Hamid Karzai, the president, who had been sworn in for a second term, just weeks before the Van Rompuy meeting, after an election marred by widespread fraud.