[The Times, U.K.]



Le Monde, France

Nicolas Sarkozy's 'Neither-Nor' on the Afghan Surge


"After exhibiting the most spectacular gestures toward the U.S. at the end of the Bush era, he seemed to lose enthusiasm after the arrival of Mr. Obama. ... France, by its refusal to commit more troops to battle, appears a reticent and dubious ally."


By Natalie Nougayrède


Translated By Lisa Cabral


December 3, 2009


France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has gone from being a hawkish ally of President Bush to a reticent coalition partner of President Obama: What happened?


BBC NEWS VIDEO: President Sarkozy visits French troops in Afghanistan, after French forces suffered their most devastating attack in 25 years, Aug. 20, 00:01:42 RealVideo

Neither a retreat nor a reinforcement of French troops. Without fanfare for the past month, such has been the position assumed by Nicolas Sarkozy, despite American requests from their close ally. In May aboard the presidential aircraft en route to the emirate of Abu Dhabi where he would inaugurate a military base to face down Iran, Mr. Sarkozy decided the debate, having been counseled about a restrained defense. At the time we reported that according to a source in the Élysée Palace [French White House], there could be a few adjustments but the effort on the ground would remain “in effect, constant during 2009.”


Afghanistan has ultimately placed the first president of the Fifth Republic never to have had a personal experience of war - Mr. Sarkozy - in a difficult position. Whereas Mr. Obama revealed his strategy of troop reinforcement at West Point on December 1, France, by its refusal to commit more troops to battle, appears a reticent and dubious ally. Even if it says it's ready to boost efforts to train Afghan police and soldiers.


This is no small paradox, coming from a French president who has claimed to be the anchor of the “Western family” and exerted himself to return France to NATO's integrated structures, which were abandoned in 1966 by [Charles] De Gaulle [photo, left] who then feared being dragged into the conflict in Vietnam.



The risk of appearing to lag behind isn't negligible in a context where even Germany could decide - after a conference on Afghanistan scheduled for London in January - for a renewed military effort. Reelected and endowed with a new coalition, Angela Merkel can afford the gesture.


Is the “neither-nor” of the French tenable while Paris officially applauds the American “surge”? The openly-Atlanticist Sarkozy is a paradox, after exhibiting the most spectacular gestures toward the United States at the end of the Bush era, he seemed to lose enthusiasm after the arrival of Mr. Obama. It was 2008 that he expanded the French contingent by about 700 men (without sending special forces home), lifted restrictions on the use of force imposed by Jacques Chirac, and beginning to concentrate the French military presence in the Pashtun districts of the east.


 [The Telegraph, U.K.]


The deaths of ten soldiers in the Ouzbine Valley [east of Kubul] on a single day in August 2008 was a turning point. It was one of the most serious combat losses by the French army since the war in Algeria. Order were quickly issued to render French operations more coherent and to minimize the taking of risk.


Over the course of several months, the French president's rhetoric on Afghanistan has lost intensity. The theme of a struggle against “barbarism” and defense of "human values” seems to have lose ground in favor of emphasizing the need to stabilize Afghanistan, a nation that sits alongside Pakistan, a nuclear state plagued by Islamist extremism.


Like other European leaders, throughout the year 2009 Mr. Sarkozy has noted the definitive “Americanization” of the war, both in the number of soldiers and resources. The United States ultimately perceived its allies as supplemental, useful politically but not a factor capable of changing the game against the Taliban. The Europeans have had no trouble naming a cascade of special emissaries on “AfPak” which have by and large remained passive participants.   





Liberation, France: Obama's Hesitation on Afghanistan May Cost Him Dearly

The Nation, Pakistan : Obama's Speech: 'Servility' Toward U.S. Has its Limits

The Nation, Pakistan : Pakistan Can't Allow U.S. Surge Along Afghan Border  

The Frontier Post, Pakistan: U.S. Swallows India's 'Lies' on Kashmir  

The Nation, Pakistan: Hillary's 'Unfortunate' PR Stunt Falls Flat  

The Nation, Pakistan: Hillary Clinton Should Mind Her Own Media!  

Pak Tribune, Pakistan: In Waziristan, Americans Must Now Stand Aside  

The Frontier Post, Pakistan: 'Rivers of Blood:' West Could Care Less for Afghan Deaths
The Frontier Post, Pakistan: Tell America to Stop Backing Terrorist Attacks on Iran
The Frontier Post, Pakistan: America Reveals Dark Side of the Human Intellect

The Australian, Australia: Before 9-11, Docs Show Split in al-Qaeda Over Attack on U.S.

Asia Times, Hong Kong: China Maps End to the Afghanistan War

The Telegraph, U.K.: Obama Reported 'Furious' at McChrystal Speech  

Gazeta, Russia: U.S. and Russia Share Responsibility for 'Afghan Anthill'

The Frontier Post, Pakistan: Americans Will Pay Dearly For 'Flirting' with Afghan War

The Frontier Post, Pakistan: This Time, the Americans Have Gone Too Far!  

The Frontier Post, Pakistan: It's Obama's Afghanistan Now


Bookmark and Share


Seen from Europe, there was sound basis for bafflement. The Elysée had observed how the Afghan conflict became a matter of open contention between American officials, while on the ground, the debacle of the Afghan presidential election added a political crisis to the military one. The time Mr. Obama took for refection was perceived by Mr. Sarkozy as interminable procrastination. The war had little bearing on the polls so Mr. Sarkozy went into retreat, leaving the Afghan terrain to his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner. Mr. Sarkozy has also deferred to better days, another trip to Pakistan.


In 2006, Mr. Chirac refused to allow the French to fight in rural Pashtun areas: he anticipated that the NATO deployment in the South would lead to a syndrome of “occupation” of Muslim lands by Westerners. During the election campaign in 2007, Mr. Sarkozy declared that, “the long term presence of French troops” seemed to him “indecisive.” Would he come to that same assessment today? In August, the chief of state said in the presence of his ambassadors that the task of French soldiers is to “stabilize the two districts in which they operate within two years.” Two years: a period that corresponds to that which Mr. Obama has initiated for a withdrawal.


In 2008, the increase of the French contingent was appreciated by Mr. Bush, who could then move a thousand American soldiers to the south to reinforce the Canadians who were threatening to leave. Against the backdrop of Franco-American “reconciliation,” it was thought that Paris had preserved the unity of the coalition, according to the principal, “we entered together and we'll leave together.” Mr. Sarkozy is now looking for the right moment to get out. At far less cost.









































Posted by WORLDMEETS.US, Dec. 5, 3:00am


Bookmark and Share