IN THE PAPERS
The French press asks whether there should be a speedier pull-out from Afghanistan following the death of six French soldiers there over the past two days. There's also extensive coverage of the US debt crisis. And one paper goes to a Paris park to meet Tunisian refugees who have fled their homeland full of optimism only to face a harsh reality.
Much media attention in France focuses on the six French soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the past couple of days. Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France argues that there are some soldiers no one is talking about: the almost five hundred men injured during the decade-long conflict. The paper talks to some of them, including a mine victim and a chief corporal wounded during an ambush. It also gets the opinion of psychiatrist Michel Lejoyeux who argues: “War doesn’t harden you up, it weakens you”. Symptoms go from experiencing “a why did I survive" guilt feeling to constant nightmares and re-living the experience.
Le Monde says the deaths cast a shadow on Thursday’s National Day celebrations and have renewed debate on speeding up troop withdrawal. France's death toll in Afghanistan for 2011 has reached 17, which is higher than the toll for the whole of last year. Le Monde points out that the deaths followed President Nicolas Sarkozy’s surprise visit to the country on Tuesday.
Libération reports on comments by France’s Army Chief of Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud who says Taliban fighters no longer have control on the ground and “realising they can’t win” are “resorting to blind terror”. The paper, too, is asking whether France could speed up its pull-out. France currently plans to be out of Afghanistan completely by the end of 2013. Libération says a quicker exit than that “could ruin the efforts made over the last decade”.
La Tribune leads with the word: “L’Angoisse” ("The Anxiety") reporting on the countdown in the United States as Democrats and Republicans try to dig the country out of a debt crisis similar to those seen in Europe. On events this side of the Atlantic, it reports on the Fitch credit rating’s agency downgrade of Greek debt from B Plus to Triple C meaning that “a default is a real possibility”. And concerning Washington, it says China – the US’s main creditor – “wants to see measures guaranteeing investors’ interests are protected”. La Tribune concludes overall that “reason should win out” despite tense negotiations on Capitol Hill.
The left-wing daily Libération, meanwhile, argues that the European Union should investigate what it describes as the “irrationality of the credit rating agencies”. It reports the ECB, IMF and OECD consider the agencies are making the crisis worse. And says the explanation for that goes back to the 2008 financial crisis which harmed the agencies’ reputation and has now made them now conservative – small C – in their forecasts and stricter in their ratings.
And Le Monde reports on four Tunisian refugees of the Arab Spring who have made a base in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, one of the large parks on the right bank here in Paris (in the 19th arrondissement). They say that they crossed the Mediterranean full of optimism but are now resigned to their fate. One of the four, Karim, says he is too ashamed to contact his family back in Tunisia after three months away. It’s estimated that 600 to 900 Tunisian refuges of the Arab Spring are now in Paris.