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Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman

Posted: September 10, 2009 02:42 PM

Showdown in Brighton on British Troops in Afghanistan


From September 27 to October 1, the British Labour Party is holding its annual conference in Brighton. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is putting forward a resolution calling for the British government to bring British troops home from Afghanistan.

If this resolution passes, it will add significantly to the pressure on the British government to move further towards withdrawing its troops. Already, the Independent reports, Britain has told the U.S. it wants to cut U.K. troop numbers from more than 9,000 to fewer than 5,000 in "three to five years, maximum."

As the CLPD notes in its resolution, the majority of Britons want British troops withdrawn. Two-thirds of Britons want British troops to come home, the Independent recently reported.

The British Labour Party has been "Americanized" somewhat in recent years - power over policy has been moved away from rank-and-file activists. But it's still the case that the passage of a resolution by the Labour Party conference calling for British troops to be withdrawn will be hard for the British government to ignore as it moves into a general election campaign. The expectation that the government should follow the wishes of the people who vote for it is still stronger in Britain than it is in the United States.

If the British go, the pretense of an "international military coalition" likely will have to be largely abandoned, as Britain is the greatest non-U.S. contributor of troops, and other major contributors like Canada and Germany, already under significant domestic pressure, are sure to follow suit.

And if the pretense of an international military coalition is abandoned, that's going to add significantly to pressure in Washington against an indefinite continuation of the war. Already, Senator Levin and House Speaker Pelosi are telling the Obama Administration not to assume support from Congress for sending more troops.

So Americans who want the war to end have a big stake in what happens in Brighton at the end of the month. We don't get to vote, of course. But we can show our support.

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