A classified CIA memo (pdf) obtained by Wikileaks.org outlines public relations strategies that could be used to shore up French and German support for continuing the war in Afghanistan. In February, the Dutch government effectively collapsed over a dispute about whether the Netherlands should continue to keep its 2,000 troops posted in Afghanistan. Dutch leaders had promised the country's voters they would bring most of their troops home this year, but American officials -- concerned that if the Dutch left it would encourage other countries to pull out as well -- pressed the Dutch government to leave its troops in Afghanistan on a scaled-back basis. The entire Dutch Labor party resigned over the dispute. The CIA memo notes how this governmental collapse reflects the fragility of European support for the mission. It says that as long as people are apathetic and don't see the war as a pressing issue, it is easier for governments to send more troops. The memo warns, though, that a "bloody summer in Afghanistan" could create a public backlash in Europe and elsewhere, increasing opposition for the war. The memo suggests tailoring PR messages for each country to forestall such a backlash. For the French, it suggests using messages that "tap into [the French's] acute concern for civilians and refugees" by creating the perception that the French mission helps Afghan civilians. For Germany, the memo suggests messages that "illustrate how defeat in Afghanistan could heighten Germany's exposure to terrorism, opium and refugees."
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