In today's French papers, Paris falls into line with Washington on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and the French "bac" is put to the test after geeks released questions on a video games website before a maths exam.
Le Figaro leads "La France va se retirer d’Afghanistan" - there will be a French pullout from Afghanistan. It’ll be a phased withdrawal, with 1,000 out of a 4,000 contingent coming out over the next year. The paper quotes the Elysée saying that France shares the “analysis and aims” of the Americans in Afghanistan.
The paper, in its inside pages, says that Berlin, London and Rome are all in line and quotes French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet saying the move “stems from the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the work of the soldiers on the ground”. Another article in the paper headlines: “The Afghans fear the return of the Taliban”. A man tortured in the past by the Taliban says he is scared of being beaten to go and pray, although a friend chimes in and says we don’t want foreigners to run our country.
Le Monde has a front page editorial saying France’s decision is based on the principle of “we go in together and leave together”. However, while aligning itself it with the US, France does not have the satisfaction of mission accomplished. It argues President Nicolas Sarkozy gains from troop withdrawal as it removes a thorn from his side. The number of French casualties has risen over the last few months making the war unpopular with the French.
An anonymous group of French diplomats, who call themselves “Groupe Marly”, has written to Le Monde to slam French diplomacy. They call it a “sand castle” without a foundation stone and lacking the staff and resources needed. It says that France likes to say it has the second-largest diplomatic presence in the world but in reality, the group argues, it is losing the battle of “soft power”.
The secondary school leaving exams are in full swing here in France and there’s a scandal. Liberation headlines: “Le Bug du Bac” (bac standing for baccalauréat). There was a leak of questions before a maths exam earlier this week. The paper says this just one of several problems casting a shadow on the whole examination system. It says the leak is all the more humiliating because it took place on a video games web site.
Le Figaro editorial writer Yves Thréard says that the incident is “without doubt a tree that hides a forest”. He cites the example of cheaters using a smartphone on a trip to the loo and says continued assessment would be a better system.