Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns of further sanctions against Russia

    Read more

  • Experimental Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • IMF stands behind Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

Asia-pacific

French mission focused on training Afghanistan troops

Text by Mathieu Mabin

Latest update : 2010-08-24

The French soldier killed in Afghanistan on Monday belonged to a highly skilled team training Afghan soldiers. The French specialists focus on helping the local army operate independently, often under extremely difficult circumstances.

French Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) are small groups of highly experienced soldiers working in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. Their mission is to train Afghan soldiers so that the army will ultimately operate independently.

It was in the Anasay valley north-east of Kabul that a French soldier belonging to such an OMLT unit lost his life. His death brings to 37 the number of French troops killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of the NATO mission in 2001.

There are just under 300 French army mentors fighting alongside their Afghan National Army (ANA) colleagues in an effort to bring security and stability to this conflict-wrecked nation.

These French soldiers are combat-seasoned men working in groups of six or seven under the supervision of an officer.

These small teams go into action with up to 2,000 ANA volunteers, giving them "on the job" training in the rudiments of modern tactical infantry warfare.

France began participating in OMLT missions in 2007 in the region east of Kabul in Afghanistan.

Since then, these specialised teams have become fully integrated into the ANA's 201 Corps, fighting Taliban insurgents in the Surobi and Kapisa provinces, to the north and east of the capital Kabul.

Different approach to waging war

OMLTs are also responsible for liaising between their Afghan colleagues and the overall NATO mission.

But this cooperation is often rendered difficult not only by the language barrier, but above all by a completely different approach to waging war.

These experienced French soldiers are often frustrated when trying to teach sophisticated infantry tactics, as the ANA commanders would rather do full-frontal attacks without the element of surprise.

Yet despite the differences, one ANA brigade mentored by these OMLT groups was recognised last year as ready to operate independently of their French mentors - a first since the beginning of the NATO mission in 2001.

It is an encouraging step towards the complete independence of the Afghan army across the country.

Such autonomy is a central goal for Western nations embroiled in the Afghan counter-insurgency war and is a central plank of NATO's strategy in the country. NATO forces aim to help build an army capable of holding down and defeating the Taliban by itself.

US President Barack Obama has said that a fully independent and effective ANA must be realised before US troops can be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Under-paid and under-equipped, and the insurgents pay more…

But, for the moment, the ANA is too disorganised, its soldiers too inexperienced, badly equipped and not just under-paid but in many cases not paid at all. Wages destined for the troops often 'disappear'.

The average wage of an ANA soldier is 150 dollars per month. The insurgents pay twice as much as this for just a week's service or even to take part in only one ambush.

Ergo the high desertion rate in the ANA, which was estimated at 20% in 2009.

And the knock-on effect from the desertions is the OMLT’s lack of confidence in their Afghan colleagues.

OMLTs can be forgiven for worrying about providing tactical training when some 10% of ANA soldiers are thought to be pro-Taliban, if not actually Taliban infiltrators.

These problems may be behind France's decision to stick with the the principal of using OMLTs rather than pursuing more direct aggressive options in its dealings in Afghanistan. France has however augmented the OMLT deployment by sending 150 'Gendarmes' (policemen) to work alongside and help train the Afghan police force.

In contrast, the USA has favoured the more aggressive option of boosting their combat troop numbers by 30,000.


 

Date created : 2010-01-12

  • AFGHANISTAN

    Third French soldier dies in as many days

    Read more

  • AFGHANISTAN

    French officer wounded in Monday convoy attack dies

    Read more

  • AFGHANISTAN

    French soldier among six foreign troops killed in insurgent attacks

    Read more

COMMENT(S)