The loss of ten French troops in Afghanistan yesterday, representing the largest number of Western troop fatalities in a single incident in more than three years is, of course, tragic as were loss of 578 Americans, 116, Britons 116 and 90 Canadians 90 since the invasion in 2001.
The French like the Germans have so far placed restrictions on their troops and largely kept them out of harms way and prefer to sit on the sidelines as the country with the help of Pakistan goes down the toilet.
Earlier this year Germany again refused to send troops to help Nato “allies” in the volatile south. It is a request that France, Turkey and Italy have also shunned and here is the result.
The French weren’t killed in the South. They were killed in familiar territory which has been under French control for years – just 30 miles east of capital Kabul.
President Sarkozy told French forces in Kabul: “Why are we here? It is because here we play a part in the freedom of the the world. Here we are fighting against terrorism.”
It is the right message. He just needs to convince his neighbours and those at home as the French engage in some ritual defeatist talk and comparing Afghanistan to the Vietnam war among other things. I guess there is always a temptation to return to subjects you know all about. French newspaper Ouest-France had this to say: “Nato is in the process of suffering its first defeat in its history as the far right and the Communist party chime together to urge the French president to cut France’s losses and end the country’s “humiliating” service in the cause of the US.
As other recent attacks have shown the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse and the Taliban more aggressive and prepared to staged larger attacks that can reap results.
The French losses, with 21 wounded, came on the same day that a US base was attacked by gunmen and six suicide bombers.
It isn’t enough to sit on the sidelines as increasingly it is a country with very little sidelines left.