Leo Michel on Al Jazeera: The Killing of French Soldiers in Afghanistan
Al Jazeera English "News Hour" Live Television
Broadcast Friday, January 20, 2012
Interview with Leo Michel: Reaction to the 4 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
On January 20, 2012, INSS Distinguished Research Fellow Leo Michel was interviewed live by Al Jazeera (English channel) on reaction to the killing of four French soldiers and the wounding of 15 more, reportedly by an Afghan soldier. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Al Jazeera: President Sarkozy has hinted that this might mean bringing forward the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan? How big of an impact would that have on NATO operations there?
Leo Michel: This is certainly a very serious blow. The French have been in Afghanistan in a military fashion since October 2001. They were one of the principal (and) initial members of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), and their performance in operations—including in combat operations, training, and civil-military operations—has been very highly respected, certainly here in the United States. Since training of the Afghan security forces is such an important part of the NATO transition strategy between now and 2014, and perhaps afterword, certainly having trainers in effect murdered by some of those whom they are trying to train is a very difficult blow for the French and for the Alliance more generally.
Al Jazeera: If France does decide to pull out early, is that going to set an example for others to think that we might do the same?
Leo Michel: I would be very surprised that the French would pull out in a precipitous way. I would expect that they would be very deliberate in their moves. Certainly, they would want to have some kind of, not hard assurance, but some kind of indication from the Afghan authorities and, of course, their own military authorities that they can do something to significantly reduce the risk of such events happening again in the future. I should point out that France, very unfortunately, is not the only NATO Ally or coalition partner in Afghanistan that has suffered from these sorts of attacks. Similar attacks have happened to the Spanish, to the Italians, Germans, to Americans, the British and, I believe, Australians, as well. So there’s a problem here with training. On the other hand, there has also been progress in training the Afghan forces.
Al Jazeera: The fact that various NATO nations have had their troops killed by what should be friendly Afghan forces…what can they do to prevent that sort of attacks? Is there anything they can do if they’re working side by side to avoid this kind of thing happening?
Leo Michel: I don’t think that training is a no-risk operation. There is no way of eliminating risk totally when you are in these surroundings. But I do think there are a number of operational things you could do in terms of vetting the Afghan forces, when you are recruiting them, and in terms of their elementary training, and certainly the French have been very instrumental in training not only the officer corps but also non-commissioned officers. And they’ve made progress, as indicated by the French Chief of Defense, Admiral Guillaud, during his visit to Afghanistan last December and in his remarks earlier this week.
« Read More News & Events