Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FASHION

Paris, Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015.

Read more

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

  • UN Security Council calls for Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

    Read more

  • Holland beat hosts Brazil 3-0 to finish third in World Cup

    Read more

  • Afghan presidential candidates agree to full vote audit, Kerry says

    Read more

  • France’s Kadri wins eighth stage at Tour de France

    Read more

  • Legal challenge to French mayor’s ban of Muslim hijab on beach

    Read more

  • Last of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, dies aged 62

    Read more

  • Video: Outrage in wake of deadly Casablanca buildings collapse

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces ‘executed prisoners in reprisal’ for ISIS killings

    Read more

  • Ukraine promises retaliation after rebel assault

    Read more

  • Putin revives old Cuban flame and eyes Latin American minerals

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • Cleveland's NBA fans hail 'return of king' LeBron James

    Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • Magnitude 6.8 quake, small tsunami hit east Japan

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

Stay the course in Afghanistan?

©

Latest update : 2008-08-24

France's role in the war in Afghanistan is again a subject for debate after the death of 10 French soldiers in an ambush near Kabul. The Canadian viewpoint may influence the French government's next moves in the conflict.


The loss of 10 French paratroopers during an ambush in the region of Kabul has sparked wide public debate over France’s involvement in Afghanistan. How will France react, especially given the nation’s reluctance to participate in what people consider an “American war”?

 

France might look for ideas across the Atlantic to its ally and US–neighbour, Canada, where public opinion has largely opposed the war.

“All the public debates taking place in Canada are premonitory,” according to Paul Vallet, researcher at the Paris based Institute of Political Studies (IEP), “since until now France has stayed away from the warfare perspective,” he added.

The Canadian experience could serve as a warning to France, which has now deployed 700 elite troops in one of Afghanistan’s most perilous areas.

In the spring of 2006, eager to mend ties with the US, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent 2500 Canadian troops to fight the Taliban in Kandahar, the militia’s stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Two years of fighting in extreme conditions has cost the lives of at least 80 Canadian soldiers. The extreme unpopularity of the Afghan war with Canadians has forced Harper’s government to use all means of diplomacy and persuasion to counter reticent public opinion.

Reacting to the French soldiers’ deaths in Afghanistan, France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner explained: “It’s important to understand that we are helping the Afghans fight against extremism, attacks, regression and to maintain the restored democracy.”

“Kouchner’s speech is similar to what was said in Canada a few years ago,” says Frédéric Mérand, a political science professor at the University of Montreal. “It’s an outdated speech, lost to a more pragmatic one about the impact of this region on world security.”

Clearly the Canadians didn’t fall for the humanist argument. Since 2007, 60 percent of the public has opposed Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. The Canadian army, directly in the firing line in the fight against the Taliban, also expressed its unhappiness. One year on in 2008, the Canadian government, in a tricky position knowing it had to renew its military commitment to the NATO, threatened to leave Afghanistan unless other NATO allies sent in reinforcements to the “deadliest” zones in southern Afghanistan.

Following Canada’s threat, French President Nicolas Sarkozy took the decision to move the French army beyond the Afghan capital Kabul to Kapisa, a more dangerous area. “For the president, it was a way of showing solidarity with deployed troops from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada,” explains Paul Vallet.

So, like Harper, does Nicolas Sarkozy also risk weakening his position by leading French troops into combat in Afghanistan? In the short term, says Frédéric Mérand, the deaths of soldiers could give people a feeling of solidarity with the army especially as France, unlike Canada, is used to deadly combat. But, “in the long term”, he says, “people won’t want to keep seeing widows and orphans, they won’t accept that soldiers keep dying.”
 

Date created : 2008-08-24

Comments

COMMENT(S)