Nato fears split over Afghan withdrawal will fuel bloodshed
Hollande’s pledge to pull out troops early will dominate Chicago talks as UK bill is set to hit £20bn
Nato's leaders will try to avert a damaging split tomorrow over when Western troops are pulled out of Afghanistan after the new French President's election pledge to withdraw its forces early.
François Hollande has promised to end the French military presence by the end of this year – two years ahead of the schedule backed by the United States.
A two-day summit in Chicago will attempt to find a common position between Nato's 28 members amid fears that signs of division could encourage insurgent forces to step up attacks.
The meeting was originally scheduled to agree a detailed timetable for ending the decade-long mission, but its leaders are facing a more immediate challenge in stopping the alliance's common front from fracturing.
They will also have to consider whether the security situation is stabilising sufficiently for the planned drawdown to take place at all. More than 150 Nato troops, including 20 Britons, have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year. Two died yesterday when rockets crashed into an American base in the north of the country.
Barack Obama, backed by David Cameron, has set a deadline of the end of 2014 for the US-led mission to finish, although the aim is to hand over responsibility for security to Afghan forces a year earlier. The US has 90,000 of the 129,000 coalition troops in the country, with Britain supplying the second-largest force of 9,500.
During his election campaign, Mr Hollande said he was committed to an "immediate withdrawal" of his nation's 3,300-strong contingent.
If he sticks to that pledge, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who faces an election next year, could come under domestic pressure to promise to withdraw her country's 4,900 troops early.
Two weeks ago, Mr Hollande appeared to soften his stance when he said "combat units" would be withdrawn this year, suggesting French advisers could remain until the Nato deadline expires.
Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, has said that a "properly structured exit" is important for the alliance's cohesion, but has indicated he believes the differences within Nato's leadership can be resolved. His statement came as official figures revealed that the UK has spent £17.3bn on the Afghan war since 2001, on top of normal defence spending. It could rise to £20bn by the time the last UK personnel leave.
Jon Wilks, the former ambassador to Yemen, has been appointed a special envoy to advise Syrian opposition groups following the crackdown that has cost 10,000 lives. Mr Cameron has also agreed to send a senior officer to head a United Nations team of military observers, the first British military personnel to be involved. A No 10 source hinted that more UK troops could join UN teams in Syria.
Troop withdrawal: The options
Domestic pressure builds in the US, UK and other western European nations to accelerate withdrawal. There are signs that the security situation is stabilising more quickly than expected as attacks on International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) troops decline and government soldiers assert themselves across the country. Western forces pull out by the end of next year – 12 years after their initial deployment. Likelihood *
Stick to plan A:
Barack Obama and David Cameron persuade wavering Isaf members to stick to plans to hand over front-line security to the Afghans in 2013 with total withdrawal by December 2014. Nations such as France, Germany and Australia keep a token presence – or are allowed to keep a rapid reaction force in the region to be called back in an emergency. Likelihood ****
The insurgency intensifies ahead of the planned withdrawal date and there is a surge in "green on blue" attacks by men in Afghan military uniform. Alarmed senior commanders, fearing that the country's forces are too weak to respond, convince the politicians to relax the mission's end date. Public opinion is hostile to the move – and some nations will pull their troops out anyway. Likelihood **
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Syrian refugee child beaten by Istanbul Burger King manager for eating customer’s leftover food
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Winston Churchill: From accusations of anti-Semitism to the blunt refusal that led to the deaths of millions
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...