Leadership: France Fixes Afghan Problems

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August 31, 2008:  French military officials, after analyzing the August 18th ambush of their paratroopers in Afghanistan, decided to send more reconnaissance and intelligence gathering units to help prevent this from happening again. The ambush left ten French soldiers dead, and twice as many wounded. The immediate cause of the disaster was overconfidence by the local commander, who believed he had a good grasp of what the Taliban situation was in the area. This was compounded by a lack of resources to deal with such a situation. Thus France will be sending more UAVs, and commandos. The UAVs will, obviously, be used to spot Taliban forces large enough to stage an ambush, or cause any other unanticipated mischief. U.S. practice is to use UAVs to scour the area where troops are to patrol, and to have one (usually a small one like the 4 pound Raven) available to check out good ambush locations. U.S. troops also practice quick reaction tactics for when they are caught in an ambush. This sort of thing was first developed during the Vietnam war, and was very useful in limiting losses when hit by an ambush.

France had withdrawn 200 special operations troops from Afghanistan twenty months ago, but is sending some of them back to concentrate on gathering intelligence in the region where French troops operate. The ambush was just the kind of victory the Taliban have been seeking. It was not the number of French troops hurt that mattered, but the impact on voters back home. After August 18th, an opinion poll in France found 55 percent of voters wanted French troops out of Afghanistan. If the Taliban can kill a few more French troops, they believe they can generate enough political pressure back in France to get the French contingent withdrawn. The recently elected French president says that will not happen.

 


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