August 23, 2009 6:12PM

Allies Looking for Afghan Exits

The U.S. is looking increasingly friendless in Afghanistan.  Our allies are searching for the exits.

For instance, the Conservative Party defense spokesman, Liam Fox, long a strong advocate of close trans-Atlantic ties, is pushing to bring home his nation's troops:

Liam Fox, the Tory defence spokesman, is calling for Britain to shorten its deployment in Afghanistan by setting clear targets for military success and sending more troops to train the Afghan army.

His words will be seen as moving towards a more populist emphasis on disentangling the UK from a conflict which increasingly lacks public support, as Cameron condemns the 'scandal' of UK helicopter shortage in Afghanistan.

The German Foreign Minister and Social Democratic candidate for Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier said much the same thing:

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is bidding to oust Angela Merkel as chancellor of Germany in an election next month, said he wanted a timetable for a military pull-out from Afghanistan. Steinmeier, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with Merkel's conservatives, said once it became clear who would lead Afghanistan after last Thursday's election there, talks should begin over how long foreign troops should stay.

So have the Free Democrats, the most "liberal" (in a good sense) of the leading German parties.  If the FDP sustains its current level of support, it is likely to join Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU in the next coalition and take the foreign ministry post.  Reports the New York Times:

“The next government must formulate a precise plan that spells out how a pull-out of the German Army over the coming years would look,” Jürgen Koppelin, a federal legislator and defense expert for the Free Democrats, said in a newspaper interview Wednesday. “Our soldiers in Afghanistan and their families need to know that the mission will end.”

By raising the issue now, the Free Democrats may be trying to show their foreign policy credentials, particularly since they hope to take over the Foreign Ministry if they win enough votes to form the next coalition with Mrs. Merkel, who is favored to retain the chancellery. So far, foreign policy issues have played no role in this campaign, which has yet to get going in force.

Obviously, the U.S. needs to be planning the military end-game as well.  Otherwise, as Malou Innocent has warned, American troops could be fighting for years or even decades to come -- and with few or even no allies.