FRANCE 24 confirms the existence of a NATO report claiming French soldiers who were ambushed and killed in Afghanistan were ill-equipped. French lawmakers are set to vote on whether to maintain French troops in the country.
FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Afghanistan, Lucas Menget, confirmed the existence of a confidential NATO report, which the Canadian daily “Globe and Mail” had uncovered on Saturday. According to the report, the ten French soldiers killed in a Taliban attack on August 18 were badly equipped and unprepared.
On Sunday NATO and French authorities denied this report even existed. In a Monday morning interview with RTL radio, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin acknowledged the existence of an “officers account of the ambush”, denying the document was a “secret report”. “It is a fragmented recollection written in the direct aftermath of the attack, based on elements of the officer’s personal knowledge” Morin said.
A Nato commander who asked to remain anonymous told AFP that an email addressed by an Isaf officer to Nato’s headquarters in Kabul-in which he expressed his opinion on the attack against French forces-had been leaked to the press.
The controversy comes just as the French parliament goes to the polls on Monday, as the country maintains its military presence in Afghanistan.
“The document certainly exists”, said Globe and Mail journalist Graeme Smith in an interview with FRANCE 24. “I think that the phrasing of this denial from Europe was very interesting [ed: NATO command in Europe]. They said a special report does not exist. That is entirely correct, this is a very ordinary report.”
“The report is part of a normal NATO procedure each time there is a major attack against the coalition”, explained Lucas Menget, who has seen the document. “But by definition, they are never made public. This four page report and supporting maps, give a different version to the official French one.”
Our special correspondent outlined the important points made in the report:
1. The NATO investigation stated that the French paratroopers (8th RPIMA) had only one radio to contact headquarters, and that it stopped working for several hours after the soldier carrying it died. He was the first to die in the attack. This radio was also the only means to call in coalition air support.
The French army on the other hand, said the radio was off air for just 10 to 15 minutes.
2. The NATO report stated that the French soldiers were neither prepared nor well-armed for the situation. They did not have enough spare magazines and had only 90 minutes worth of ammunition, while fighting well-prepared and organised Taliban forces.
3. The NATO report also said that “Afghan army regulars fled”. French military sources in Afghanistan, cited by Lucas Menget, maintained that they had tried to help the French, but did not succeed. This point is particularly sensitive, because one of NATO's goals is to train Afghan soldiers.
“It should be highlighted that the report doesn’t accuse France of anything”, said Lucas Menget. “It points out failures, and in theory this report serves to prevent similar attacks from happening again. It does emphasize that the Taliban have become particularly well trained and equipped.”
Date created : 2008-09-21