Recently installed Socialist French President François Hollande has reaffirmed his commitment to recall his country’s troops serving in Afghanistan by the end of this year, beginning from the next month. The reiteration came soon after he received the news of the death of four French soldiers at the hands of a Taliban militant disguised as burqa-clad woman in the Nijrab district of Kapisa province on Saturday. Five other French soldiers received injuries, three of them of a serious nature. The incident, the first of its kind since Mr Holland took over, sent shock-waves across the country, prompting him to say that the country would pay “national homage” to the dead. When Hollande had, against the backdrop of the loss of French lives in Afghanistan in January this year, announced that, if elected, he would withdraw French forces a year ahead of the scheduled exit i.e. end-2013, set by his incumbent rival Nicolas Sarkozy, he created quite an anxiety in Nato circles since the polls had declared him as one of the front-runners. At the same time, the idea of an earlier withdrawal must also have weighed a great deal with the electorate, which had become weary of the long drawn-out war. France, which is the fifth largest contributor of troop to Nato in Afghanistan, at present has around 3,500 servicemen on the ground. About 2,000 of them are combatants, who would be brought back by the end of this year. The rest would be charged with sending home heavy military equipment, including 900 armoured vehicles, and 1,000 containers.

Countries in President Bush’s ‘coalition of the willing’ have been leaving the arena of war following heavy loss of life, and consequently pleading or responding to public pressure at home.

After all, in a conflict, death and loss is not decreed only for one side. Today, soldiers have become more and more prone to their taking own lives. During the first 155 days of this year, the number of suicides among the US troops was 154, much higher than the national average.

All this points to the futility of the unwinnable war in Afghanistan. The preference to engage militants in war rather than negotiations, has not paid off well. The deep scars this has left on the Afghan psyche would continue to rankle. The only attenuating course is to completely pull out of the occupied country and let Afghan-led, Afghan-sponsored settlement prevail in deciding the future of Afghanistan.