Withdrawal From Afghanistan
On January 20 Yves Daoudal posted this item at his website:
For the second time in a few weeks, French soldiers have been killed by soldiers of the Afghan army whom they were training…
Sarkozy is angry: "If security conditions are not clearly established, the question of an early withdrawal of the French army arises."
I don't really see what is meant by security conditions for soldiers in a country at war… and you had to be uncommonly naïve not to predict that the Taliban would join the Afghan army in order to take advantage of French military instruction…
Sarkozy's remarks are no doubt a way of admitting that it is not our war, and of announcing the return of French soldiers without admitting defeat...
Yesterday (Saturday) I received an e-mail from Diana West, with a link to an article at her blog announcing the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan. She links also to an article in the Peninsula Clarion describing the angry reaction of Afghan MP Tahira Mujadedi. Here are excerpts:
Mujadedi argued that Afghan forces in Kapisa are not ready to go it alone in fighting the Taliban insurgency, which is especially strong in several of the province's districts. She warned that if NATO forces pull back from Kapisa, it could also destabilize nearby Kabul, the Afghan capital.
"We have had so many attacks, ambushes and also suicide attacks in Kapisa," Mujadedi said. "Unfortunately, our national police and army, while present in Kapisa, are unable to provide good security for people." (…)
"When military forces are present in a war zone, anything can happen," she said. The French troops "are not here for a holiday," she added.
But the killing of the unarmed French troops by a Afghan soldier whom they were training has deepened discontent with the Afghan war in France, where Sarkozy is facing a tough election this year. France has about 3,600 troops in the international force, which is mostly made up of American troops.
When you visit Diana West's blog (linked above), browse through the many articles she has written on Afghanistan. Like Yves Daoudal, she has kept a chronicle of our failures, cover-ups, and losses in this apparently futile war. Diana is a nationally syndicated columnist, and one of the few true conservative writers to break through the barriers erected by liberal journalism and reach a public normally deprived of enlightened viewpoints.
The photo below shows Hamid Karzai at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris on January 27. According to the military website FNCV:
Karzai and Nicolas Sarkozy signed a bilateral agreement of friendship and cooperation that details the civil and military aid from France to Afghanistan. The meeting between the two heads of State, scheduled long ago, took place in a special atmosphere, after the deaths of four French soldiers (…)
According to the initial withdrawal plan, six hundred French soldiers were to return home in 2012. But, in fact, one thousand will return. Beginning in March, the security of Kapisa Valley - for the moment in the hands of the French - will be the responsibility of the Afghan army. And that was not in the initial plan. For now, President Sarkozy insists it has nothing to do with the deaths of four French soldiers on January 20.
For Sarkozy it will be a "gradual" withdrawal that will also mean the end of combat missions for French troops in 2013. The troops will then be moved into positions as trainers for the army and the Afghan police.
Yves Daoudal has also chronicled the casualties and military decisions in Afghanistan. Like many Frenchmen he feels that it is not France's war. In March 2009, he quoted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Afghanistan:
"We are not going to win this war merely by staying there. Quite frankly, we will never succeed in defeating the insurrection. In my opinion, Afghanistan has always had in its history an insurrection of one form or another. So what we need in Afghanistan is a government that is capable of managing this insurrection."
It is interesting to compare what Harper said with what Tahira Mujadedi (see above) claims - essentially, that the current Afghan government cannot manage the insurrection.
According to Wikipedia there have been 2,765 coalition deaths in Afghanistan as of December 20, 2011. Regarding France:
A total of 82 French soldiers have died thus far. 61 soldiers have been killed in action, of the others: seven have died in vehicle accidents, four were killed by an Afghan soldier who turned and fired their rifle on French soldiers during training, one in a helicopter crash, two committed suicide, two have drowned, one was killed by a lightning strike, two died from a non-hostile gunshot wound, one died in an accidental explosion, and one died of unknown causes.
The largest number of soldiers killed was when French troops were ambushed in the area of Sirobi, some 50 km (31 mi) east of Kabul, in August 2008. Ten French troops were killed and a further 21 wounded in the attack - the heaviest loss of troops France has suffered since deploying to Afghanistan in 2001.
Finally, despite the general opposition to the presence of the French on Afghan soil, there are those who want the troops to finish their mission. At Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), Pierre Servent explains why France is wrong to leave. Here is just the beginning of his editorial, written just before Sarkozy's decision was announced:
If France were to withdraw her forces early from Afghanistan, as the president indicated on Friday, it would be an error. First, that would amount to giving the Taliban a considerable political and psychological advantage. Next, it would penalize the passing of the baton between French soldiers and Afghan soldiers, police and gendarmes. Finally, it would set a bad example, vis-à-vis the coalition of 47 nations of which we are a part, to all those who are also tempted by a premature withdrawal. France has in fact discovered the extent to which infiltration, one of the modus operandi of Taliban extremists, can be deadly. (…)