Saturday, February 7, 2009

France's Afghan dilemmas

By Thomas Withington for ISN Security Watch

France continues to increase its military presence in Afghanistan as part of Paris' contribution to the continuing NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.
Reports in early February spoke of additional unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being deployed to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul to support French Sperwer drones already in theatre. These pilotless aircraft will provide 24-hour reconnaissance and surveillance pictures to French troops on the ground.

The country's presence is also being beefed-up with the possible arrival of advanced Eurocopter EC-665 Tigre attack helicopters this summer, while Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Dassault Mirage-2000D combat aircraft are being redeployed from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Kandahar, southwest Afghanistan. This will shorten their flying time to possible trouble spots in the south of the country.

The increase in France's presence in Afghanistan follows the ambush of troops from the Armée de Terre (French Army) 8e Régiment Parachutiste d'Infanterie de Marine (8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment) in Sarobi province, north of Kabul last August, which left 10 troops dead and another 21 injured. This was the largest wartime loss of life for the French armed forces since 23 October 1983 when 58 troops were killed during a bomb attack on their barracks in Beirut. New BAE Systems RG-31 Nyala mine-protected vehicles are also on the way from the US to protect French troops from attack by mines and improvised explosive devices.

Hot on the heels of the attack, the Assemblée nationale (lower house of the French Parliament) voted 340 to 210 in September last year to continue the country's Afghan deployment, and also to authorize an extra 700 troops (to supplement the circa 2,500 soldiers France currently has in Afghanistan) along with additional attack helicopters, UAVs, artillery and logistical support.
Full article is here


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