After Canada, now it’s France’s turn to ask: What’s happening in Afghanistan?

August 19, 2008

Girl holds her brother at refugee camp outside Kabul/Adnan AbidiLast week the Canadians were soul-searching about their presence in Afghanistan after three female aid workers, two of them Canadian, were killed in an ambush. “(The) Canadian deaths in Afghanistan underscore the most troubling aspect of the West’s strategy there,” said the Toronto Star. “Put simply, it isn’t working.”

Now it is the turn of the French to ask the same questions after the deaths of 10 French soldiers in a battle with Taliban fighters: What is happening in Afghanistan? Or, for some, what are we doing there?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was “determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom” after the biggest loss of French soldiers in combat since the Algerian war that ended in 1962.  But French Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande demanded answers to the many questions he said were raised by the deaths. “What are the aims of this war?” he asked. “How many soldiers are needed to achieve the objectives?

Comments on the website of French daily Le Monde were tempered by mourning for the dead. Some blamed the United States for “this crazy war which the Americans have dragged us into”; others anguished about whether they were fighting a “just” war in line with French beliefs in human rights.

Afghan woman walks past French soldiers in Kabul/Ahmad Masood“We are talking about the defence of the free world,” wrote one person, “and these soldiers died for democracy fighting the Taliban, who want to send us back to the Middle Ages. The soldiers’ bodies are not yet cold and already the Taliban collaborators are reacting…”

But that in case, asked another, “when are we going to decide to go and defend Georgia against Russian aggression?”

“The invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 2001 was supported by a very broad international consensus,” was the reply. “W. Bush leaves in a few months. So what do we do? Pack our bags and leave the Afghans to go back to civil war?”

It is clear that the war in Afghanistan has climbed back up to the top of the agenda in countries which sent troops to fight a war which, unlike Iraq, had been supported by domestic opinion after 9/11.  But now seven years on, will the voting public change its mind? Or are people simply waking up to the reality of the Afghan campaign, which by many accounts is getting uglier by the day?

Spare a thought for the people inside Afghanistan. “Taliban are really close to capital nowadays,” wrote the blogger Afghan Lord last week. “Horror is spreading fast among the people; the residents of Kabul are really worry what will happen in the next coming weeks.”


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I think that colloquialisms such as “The War on Terror”, etc are the most misleading of all. There ought to be a more clearly defined phrase that defines the job the World’s Forces are doing in Afghanistan.

Posted by J Q | Report as abusive

I would agree, J Q, and I suspect though the word/phrase exists, it’s “stabilization”.When you consider it, though, changing the concept doesn’t do much to alleviate the extreme difficulty and certain costs of tackling the immense problems of Afghanistan (and the whole Central Asian region surrounding it, since they are linked)

Yet Indeed, reflection on what can be done in Afghanistan at the present time is sorely needed. However, it is also fair to take into account in this reflection what was said and supposedly resolved at the beginning, that is in 2001-2002 after the Taliban first fell. there were big international conferences which promised money, technical assistance, troops. Countries engaged in a free-for-all of outbidding one another, it would be which one was the biggest “friend of the Afghans”. After that, the pledges were half, or less than half met. France in particular is one of the countries that didn’t meet it’s earlier commitments, finding a number of pretexts, in particular the usual handy one of not wanting to be too highly involved in any schemes where the Americans/NATO had a role. Yet it had not qualms to send twice as many troops as it has now in Afghanistan to the Ivory Coast… because there was a show that it could run on its own.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

Now Pakistan is the source of terror. Nothing can be done without the acting decisively against Pakistan. There will be huge outcry in Pakistan but Nato has to start bombing targets in Pakistan unilaterally and destroy the terror infrastructure there.

Posted by Shaan | Report as abusive

[…] exacerbates the tensions within NATO that observers have noted for months now, if not years. Reuters notes that domestic pressures in France this week mirror similar “soul-searching&#8221…. The BBC informs us that morale is running low in the French army, and cites a survey indicating […]

Posted by NATO under Strain in Afghanistan – The Seminal :: Independent Media and Politics | Report as abusive

Shaan just keep in mind that Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state and unlike Afghanistan, Pakistani military has muscles. NATO might want to bomb Pakistan, but the problem is that people of Pakistan want to safeguard the territorial integrity and soveriegnity of the country.
Whether Pakistan is the source of terror or not, any attack on Pakistan will meet and should meet massive and swift retaliation against the invader, be it the arch-enemy India or whoever.
Common sense should prevail.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

Pakistan may be nuclear armed but it can’t use them unless attacked with nuclear weapons they are useless in a conventional war. Having a handful of nuclear weapons doesn’t make you untouchable especially when the U.S. can park a submarine off your coast and wipe the entire country off the map in 30 minutes if it’s troops are attacked with nukes.
NATO troops are being killed wholesale because Pakistan has made deals and given shelter to the Taliban in its border provinces. That policy is coming to an end after the next American elections yes the U.S. is coming after the Taliban in Pakistan soon this can’t go on unchecked. Plus Bin Laden is believed to be there reason enough for a U.S. invasion. My advice for Pakistan take care of this problem before it’s too late. Game time is coming to a close.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

If there’s a true and honest need for NATO to be involved in building a healthy society in Afghanistan, for the good of all Afghani’s, then the rule of law as it applies to those NATO countries putting their citizens lives on the line for Afghanistan, must be honored as a first order of business. And don’t give me that tired old line “when in Rome…crap”…there isn’t a NATO country involved in this mess which allows open or covert commercial cultivation and production of illegal drugs on it’s soil, as is the rampant case in Afghanistan…this is the true scourge which finances the ambushes, the road side bombings,….the weapons and Taliban bodies that kill our young soldiers. If the leader of Afghanistan is a true leader and not just another friend for the moment styled drug dealer leader we seem to see all too many of these days;…if this guy is actually a leader, then there should be no hesitation what so ever in utilizing a scorched earth policy to burn the militant financing system, through drugs,…completely out of his country. But if this is a super power drug-industry votes issue and/or if the Afghan government is not willing to take the political pain of becoming a healthy drug-production-free-beginning where NATO can then effectively protect and assist in the rebuilding of a workable Afghan society….well, then they are simply telling us they are as much the problem as are the militants and should be left on their own to sort out there intentionally supported Drug Induced Social Calamity…. on their own, with their own young lives. Because you just can’t suck and blow at the same time people!

Posted by Doug | Report as abusive

One important problem is that Pakistan, or it may be more correct to say the Pakistan government, has lost control of the situation. For a number of years of course the North West Frontier Provinces have in any case been areas in which central government authority had either broken down or had long been inexistent because of the fierce tradition of autonomy of the local clans. This was an advantage (for the Mujahideen) during the Afghan war against the Soviets and it is now a disadvantage for the West’s own campaign in Afghanistan. As early as late 2001 (after Tora Bora) it was evident the Pakistan-Afghanistan border had not been secured. Musharraf’s regime has attempted to do something over the years but this was always in the face of enormous public resistance. In the last few years the crumbling authority of Musharraf has not helped, and now it’s up to the new government to try something, but they will meet with the same obstacles as their predecessors.

NATO forces can of course attempt to undertake their own operations, but it’s fair to say there won’t easily be a NATO consensus about making cross border attacks, and this riosks splintering the coalition once again, for the greater benefit of its enemies. Perhaps the time in which such operations would have made a tactical or even strategic difference has already passed. There is precisely a lot of soul searching going on in the NATO countries on both sides of the Atlantic about what course the strategy on Afghanistan should take. The NATO allies are also waiting to see what the next US administration will have in mind. Mounting casualities in Afghanistan, for uncertain results, are the reason why NATO country public opinion is doubtful about supporting bolder (and riskier) strategies in Afghanistan.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

Who define the Pakistan as a country of terror? you !west country! Who has the right to annouce the war? you!west country! In these countries’ economic,techonic,politic conditions,Do U want them has the same democracy or the living conditions as U?
If U don’t have the idea that our social system is best and force the others to comply with ,will the terrorist attack u? They just attack u for u are rich? Obviously not!
That country maybe poor and backward,but u should let there own people to develop or decide. If true ,public opinion survey shows there people need assitant or change ,your war can be justice!!

Posted by Zh | Report as abusive

“U.S. can park a submarine off your coast and wipe the entire country off the map in 30 minutes ”
Wishful thinking
Pakistan air force may not possess a sophisticated AWACS, Pakistan Navy might not be a blue water Navy. Still, with reconnaissance and a very strong will on part of Pakistan armed forces, Pakistan can pose a significant challenge to any US Naval fleet. It would just take a PAF F-16 armed with a tactical nuclear device to deliver a preemptive strike and sink a hostile US Naval carrier. Intelligence will play an important role in such a scenario. All i want to state is, Pakistan is not an easy game. While the US might be used to invading countries like Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Pakistan will be a challenge.
Lets not get into hypotheticals, the stakes are too high for everyone. If Pakistan’s existence is ever threatened, the consequences could be unbearable for many including the US.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

Also, Pakistan has never signed any treaty that it will not use nuclear weapons unless attacked by nukes. Pakistan has the right to use nuclear weapons even if it comes under a conventional attack.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

For the record.
Canada did not wait to suffer casualties in Afghanistan to question this war. Most of us where asking “why are we there?” long before any of our soldiers died (75-80% of the French-speaking population in fact). But our soldiers still go because pay is practically doubled on these types of operations and it favors their careers. That’s the truth.
So far what has come out is that Canada’s role is killing Taliban and innocent bystanders (yet the US is still better than us at that). What kind of role is that? It doesn’t sound Canadian at all.

Posted by Michel (Montreal) | Report as abusive

I like to ask a questions to all my western friends, why is that you can only occupy countries which has no army, navy, airforce or for that matter any kind of force, why don’t you try and invade CHINA. YOU KNOW VERY WELL WHY.
you guys better start speaking Chinease, Hindi, Arabic cause what’s happening with the population in your countries, you people are becoming extinct by the day.
Learn to live in peace with the rest of the world or your race will become slaves to the asians arabs and indians.
Lot of this is already happening with all the debt you people can’t pay back. Good LUCK.

Posted by HR | Report as abusive

I think the US and Nato forces did and are doing their part to kick start the process of self destruction of Islam.Given the fact that muslims anywhere on the globe cannot live in piece along with any other non-islamics, people who follow Islam apparently are a threat to global peace. Now US lead NATO forces did something great by turning Afgans over pakistanis, which is yielding good results..more than any US or NATO forces muslims are killing each other everyday in south asia…

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

What an idea !! This is politics at its best..You people should realize and appreciate the mechanism of self destruction created for Islam by US. I agree NATo countries had to fund money and lose lives of their soldiers..but this was absolutely necessary to put the self destruction mechanism in place..and this is working so fine today..I hear terror attacks by Taliban almost everyday in pakistan.

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

There is and there never was terrorism.
Who was to blame for 11 September?
Ask Mr. Bush who should be tried as war criminal.
He dragged the different nations into Afghanistan by stating categorically “You are with us or against us”.
It is the European countries that have attacked and occupied a sovreign nation called Afghanistan at the beck and call of Mr. Bush. They are all worse criminals than those who commited the outrage of 11 S because they are doing it knowingly pretending to be very civilized.
Pakistan cannot be expected to kill its own citizens to appease the west.
The western nations have bloodied hands begining with Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq (against the consent of that body called the UN).
They are all Churchist nations terrorising the innocent in their own homeland by their presence.
The French should not forget the Germans on their soil.
The Germans should not forget that they are a nation still under occupation. The Italians should not forget the German boots and so on.
The so called Free and Democratic nations should be ashamed of taking their dirty shoes to poor and defenceless countries. They should set their own houses right first if they are Christians and not Churchists!

Posted by K.H. Mian | Report as abusive

[…] France has also done some soul-searching regarding its presence in Afghanistan, as has Canada. […]

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