Sarkozy in Kabul to show French resolve
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday morning to show support for the 3,000 soldiers in the NATO-led forces, following the death of 10 French soldiers in the region.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Afghanistan Wednesday and met with survivors of the ambush in the Kabul region that killed 10 French soldiers, in the deadliest attack on international forces in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
The trip was intended to show support for the 2,600 French troops posted in Afghanistan, and to tell them that their nation stands behind them. While in Kabul, Sarkozy also will also hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to seek reassurances that the country is not spiraling out of control.
The French president flew to Camp Warehouse, the operational centre for NATO’s multinational International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) at the outskirts of the capital, directly after arriving at the Kabul airport. He paused at a mortuary holding the coffins of the dead soldiers and visited the camp hospital to speak with 10 of the 21 wounded French troops.
He then met with Gen. Michel Stollsteiner, a French general who heads the ISAF troops in the Kabul area before meeting with Karzai.
The deadliest attack on French soldiers since 1983
The 10 French soldiers were killed during heavy fighting against Taliban insurgents that erupted late Monday and continued into Tuesday in the Sarobi district, about 50 km east of Kabul. The French troops were killed when they were ambushed during a reconnaissance mission.
In what French defense officials describe as an “extremely well organized attack”, the troops were ambusted by approximately 100 Taliban insurgents. Nine soldiers were killed in the early minutes of the fighting, while the tenth was killed when his vehicle overturned on the road.
It was the deadliest attack on French soldiers since a 1983 bombing in Beirut which killed 58 paratroopers.
“The attack has sent a shockwave through the international community and the coalition forces present in Afghanistan,” said Jerome Starkey, GRN correspondent in Kabul told FRANCE 24.
Growing criticism at home
Although the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent years, with Taliban’s attacks getting increasingly sophisticated and coordinated, Sarkozy has made it clear that the attacks will not deter French presence in the region.
"My determination is intact. France is committed to pursuing the struggle against terrorism, for democracy and for freedom," said the president shortly before leaving for Kabul.
But Sarkozy has had to face criticism both from the opposition Socialist Party as well as the several French news outlets, who openly questioned the relevance of reinforcing French troops in Afghanistan in the aftermath of Tuesday’s loss.
The most recurring question is whether the conflict in Afghanistan is not just another war that cannot be won. French news website Rue 89 has pointed out that the number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan has increased since the arrival of international forces in 2001. From only a few pockets of Taliban resistance, its presence has spread to most of southern Afghanistan
“The Taliban have improved their capacity to organise themselves and maneuver,” said Jean-Louis Georgelin, chief of staff of the French armed forces.
Reporting from Kabul, FRANCE 24’s Claire Billet said recent Taliban attacks are turning increasingly deadly. “There is a shift in Taliban strategy in recent months,” said Billet. “They are leading better planned attacks and roadside ambushes. The regions near Kabul are now a war zone.”
“The Taliban are waging a propaganda war so that local populations will perceive their attacks as a war of liberation against a Christian occupying force,” Emmanuel Reinart, CEO of security expertise cabinet Senlis told FRANCE 24. The only solution, he maintains, is to send even more troops to Afghanistan.
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