French losses in Afghanistan

8th_rpima "Nicolas Sarkozy today said he would travel to Afghanistan after 10 French soldiers were killed after Taliban insurgents attacked their patrol near Kabul.

A three-hour gun battle broke out after the attack yesterday, 30 miles east of the capital, in the Surobi district, continuing sporadically overnight and picking up this morning, when the Nato soldiers were killed, Afghan military officials said today. A further 21 were injured.

One Afghan source claimed four of the soldiers had been kidnapped by the insurgents and killed.

French reinforcements in armoured vehicles joined the battle today, while other troops stopped civilian traffic from entering the area. Witnesses reported helicopters flying overhead.

The deaths of the men, from the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, represent the biggest single loss of life for the French in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of 2001 ousted the Taliban regime. Before yesterday’s attack, the total French death toll was 14.

At April’s Nato summit in Bucharest, Sarkozy pledged a further 700 soldiers to Afghanistan, and their arrival by the end of this month will take the French contingent, based mainly in Kapissa province, north-east of Kabul, to 2,600. "  Guardian


"8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment."   These are among the best the French have.  "Infanterie de la Marine," the descendants of the old "Troupes Coloniales."

It appears to have been a big and prolonged fight.  "Sarko, l’Americain" is going to visit the troops.  Good idea.  Perhaps we should get him to take over the whole Afghanistan "show" and the Americans can then support the French.  Seriously, the French armed forces are very nearly the only non-US armed forces in the world with a real expeditionary capability in terms of logistics and power projection. 

At the same time that this was happening a hundred or so jihadis attacked a US base in the city of Khowst.  They had six candidate "shuhada" (suicide martyrs) with them who blew themselves up as appropriate.  The attack failed to overrun the post, but if they keep trying….  This is beginning to sound like re-runs of the 1930s "Gunga Din" movie.  Yes.  I know "Kali," and all that.

Afghanistan badly needs reinforcements.  Badly.  Afghanistan badly needs a serious infrastructure and economic developement program.  Badly.  No more prattling about "freedom" in the CPA tradition. 

Get on with it.  pl

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30 Responses to French losses in Afghanistan

  1. JohnH says:

    Afghanistan also needs a clear definition of NATO’s strategic interests and goals. Then maybe someone can develop a clear mission with measurable objectives.
    Blindly fighting on just because somebody’s attacking us on their turf does is not a satisfactory rational for squandering billions of dollars.

  2. b says:

    “French losses”
    This was a joint mission with Afghan forces.
    No report so far mentions any Afghan casualties.
    Did they run away or they not worth being mentioned?

  3. Duncan Kinder says:

    Meanwhile, down in Somalia:

    In yet another fragile peace accord in Somalia, the government and opposition parties yesterday announced an agreement designed to halt months of escalating fighting. But the war-torn country, an Al Qaeda front in Africa, braced for fresh violence as Islamist insurgents vowed to continue fighting and executed a United Nations aid worker.

    One might think that pro-Georgia advocates might consider formulating a similar response against Russia’s current advance.
    But that would require balancing both the yin and the yang of things; something that Americans of whatever persuasion seem unwilling to consider.

  4. Ronald says:

    I worry that we will slide into Afghanistan a bit blind as a nation, only because it makes a bit more sense than Iraq. That is an unacceptably low bar.
    Powerful nations have been beaten there for centuries. We need a clearer definition of what we want to accomplish or else we will again join those ranks.

  5. Drongo says:

    “…..the French armed forces are very nearly the only non-US armed forces in the world with a real expeditionary capability in terms of logistics and power projection.” so pl.
    Erm – there are a few Canadian and British and Dutch troops more active against the Taleban and more exposed in Afghanistan and suffering substantially graeter casualties who might feel a little aggrieved by that statement. I suppose you did say “very nearly”…..

  6. Jose says:

    I’m currently reading “Charlie Wilson’s War” after watching the movie and would like to add a few quotes:
    “We must make the pot boil in Afghanistan, but I must make sure it doesn’t boil over onto Pakistan” – Zia ul-Haq
    “…There is only one superpower: Allah.” – Professor Sigbhatullah Mojadeddi (Representative of one Mujaheddin factions)
    These two quotes, IMHO, state the current mess in Afghanistan:
    1. The problem has entered Pakistan via the Pashtun (or Pashto) tribes.
    2. Pakistan offers the Taliban a free haven in which to operate and recover.
    3. Impossible to defeat unless we destroy Pakistan (every time the Punjabs attack the NWF see what happens) and live with those consequences.
    4. The Pashtuns (or Pashtos) will never quit and therefore almost impossible to defeat militarily.
    So unless we can do another “Surge” and flip the tribes, we are in deep dodo.
    What happened to the French and Khoust are just the beginning unless we change our military tactics.
    P.S. Can anyone recommend a book about what happened after the Soviets left.

  7. hotrod says:

    B, setting aside the mechanics of getting reports back to the Western world, there have been a number of reports mentioning the Afghan casualties –

  8. Mad Dogs says:

    Afghanistan is like a wound that was never attended to and at best was simply covered with a bandaid. And now the patient has gangrene.
    Who is not appalled by the messes that the next Administration will be forced to clean up?
    Forgive me when I quote our particularly useless Secretary of State:
    “Who could’ve known?”
    This will be the sad but true shibboleth by which this Administration will forever be known.
    An arrogance of idiocy, and they hold it so dear.
    Yes, who could’ve known that ideology is no substitute for reality?
    The answer of course is everyone else. Everyone but those who gladly drank the Kool-Aid.

  9. Tyler says:

    I was stationed out at Camp Salerno when it was FOB Salerno back in 03-04. I was quite a rugged and isolated little outpost at the time, with the only standing building being the flight tower, as C-130s were the only type of bird that could land.
    When we first arrived, myself and my fellow mortars strung up about 10km of triple strand concertina wire.
    I remember when KBR came they installed a two story latrine/shower system with a shiny roof. The rockets that once only came during the full moon now came at all hours. In one occasion they landed in a tentful of men and almost cost several their lives.
    It was also the FOB that Cpl. Pat Tillman was operating out of when he was killed by the Rangers.
    Regardless, that area of Afghanistan is wild and quite fierce. I am surprised it has not been in the news more. It must have been dire straights indeed for the insurgents to try a head on attack. Salerno is ringed by towers, possesses mortar pits for a battalions worth of indirect fire, a helicopter field with enough spaces for two battalions worth of attack birds, and gun emplacements for artillery pieces. Or maybe it shows how things are falling apart there.

  10. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    Pat, this is OT to this post, but I would appreciate your thoughts on the resurgence of Russian strategic aviation. There’ve been reports of bombers resuming patrols off our coasts, buzzing our carriers and even of Russian airfield survey teams in Cuba. What’s your take as an intel guy?
    Since this is OT, I certainly won’t mind if it doesn’t show up. Thanks.

  11. Mad Dogs says:

    From the BBC (tis early times, so caveat emptor):

    …Ten French soldiers have been killed in an ambush by Taleban fighters east of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
    A further 21 French troops were wounded in one of the heaviest tolls suffered by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf)…
    …The French troops were caught up in fighting that started on Monday in the area of Sarobi some 50 km (30 miles) east of Kabul.
    French defence officials said about 100 soldiers – from France, the US and Afghanistan – were on a reconnaissance mission when bad road conditions forced them to stop their vehicles.
    A group of French soldiers was sent ahead on foot to check the terrain, but they were ambushed by Taleban fighters and nine were killed.
    A tenth French soldier was killed when his vehicle overturned on the road.
    An Afghan intelligence officer told the BBC the troops had been ambushed from several directions.
    “The Taleban and al-Qaeda forces used heavy machine guns and other weapons. They fired from mountains and gardens,” he said.
    The fighting went on for 24 hours and it is understood that reinforcements had to be called in to airlift the troops to safety.
    The French recently took over control of the Kabul regional command which includes Sarobi…

    (My Bold)
    Seems like US forces were present also, but no word as of yet on their involvement or not in the firefight.

  12. fnord says:

    Sir, at least something is being done about the commandstructure. Seems like the french are getting phased out, not in.
    “Secretary Gates looks ready to create nearly a single command structure in Afghanistan and set to expand the Afghan National Army by fifty percent over its current authorized size.
    At the same time, the US seems prepared to take command of Regional Command South by 2010 and has been successful in having the Dutch and British agree to one year tours of duty for the next two Regional Command South commanders. Moreover, the commander of ISAF seems posed to gain control over CSTC-A, the command responsible for training and advising Afghan Security Forces. There is also talk of a command relationship between General McKiernan, the US Commander of ISAF, and the senior US military official in Pakistan in order to facilitate a more effective regional approach to the conflict.”

  13. Watcher says:

    I’m surprised no one has drawn the comparison to Mobile Group 100. Yes, lesser casualties today than then, but it still strikes a chord. Will the political ramifications and pressure for Sarkozy be the same as they were then?

  14. Patrick Lang says:

    I was talking about national capabilities to field and sustain indefinitely an overseas deployment of some size without another country’s logistical help. I am reasonably sure the French can do that. I do not know whether the UK or the Germans can.
    Mike Martin
    I think the Bear recce activity is of a piece with the rest of what we are seeing. The Russians are feeling good about themselves for the first time in a long while and are pushing everywhere to restore their self esteem.
    From the tone of what you wrote of Salerno it sounds like you might have read my description of Bu Dop Camp. You saw the pictures and description of OP Margha. Did this place really have no wire around it?
    I am always interested in the heritage of military units. The 8th RPIM in the first Indochina War was quite something. Mentioned four times in despatches and wiped out twice. pl

  15. S.D. says:

    French France 24 TV report in English on joint French, U.S. and Afghan National Army operation.

  16. Will says:

    why do the heathen rage?
    Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, settlement of the West Bank, Golan heights,the Giant Steel Cage of Gaza and the U.S.A. bankrolling and support thereof.
    It’s that simple!
    That’s what drives the rage. Onefold. And Twofold what drives the neokons to undermine secular states and introduce anarchy.
    Afghanistan is a sideshow. The rage is in Pakistan. 70 years of bullcrap in Palestine has driven the rage in Pakistan!
    Is it too late? No, but it didn’t build it up in a year and it won’t subside in a year.
    It’s never too late to introduce American justice into our MidEast policy!
    But where would it come from? the ministers? The Evangelicals? Derwoshits ‘ Harvard Law School?

  17. Tyler says:

    After I went back and read what I wrote, I thought the same thing, that our descriptions of Salerno and Bu Dop sounded similiar, as far as firepower went. We even had about 50-100 men from the Afghani irregulars (unrelated to the AMA) on post with us. There was a huge wadi that we had cordoned off on the eastern perimeter, on the other side of the airstrip. It was also about two miles before you hit main gate, and the two times we were directly attacked the response was so disproportionate as to have us shooting at piles of hamburger after a minute.
    I was with the 1/501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at the time, and we were about task force strength (1000+ or so including organic elements). While our company was busy on guard duty, the mortar section was busy laying wire and setting up bunker positions. Needless to say Salerno was a well defended outpost, at least by the time we left.
    I don’t know who is there now. I do know the marines who replaced us made a mess of things even before we had rotated out. Border Control Post 4, a site of heavy fighting (artillery pieces were put into direct fire config and claymore mines were used, two examples off the top of my head) was lost almost immediately after our main force deployed back stateside.
    Sorry for that bit of ancedotal backstory, but I just wanted to try and set the scene.
    As far as Margha goes, with the manpower described I really am not surprised they are not setting up wires and bunkers. The Army of today has eaten the heart of its NCO Corps, and those NCOs probably don’t have a clue that they should be reinforcing that pitiful base. Furthermore, the soldiers in question are probably not used to discipline like that, and are griping about how much it sucks being there.
    I’d imagine the LT is simply worried about keeping it all together until he’s relieved, and the last thing on his mind is whether or not sandbags are being filled.

  18. Again it appears well trained “elite” soldiers were overmatched for whatever reasons. None-the-less given the remote and isolated conditions in the country and small units involved survivors are going to be unusually well versed in what is necessary to win in the country. Hope the higher ups listen closely and learn from their subordinates whatever country they are from. The saddest part of soldiering is that only can be learned by doing and always losses will occur. At least the French honor their dead.

  19. Ael says:

    All the Taliban need is a steady source of some half decent man portable SAMs and NATO would be in a world of hurt.

  20. jr786 says:

    At one point does the generic “Taleban” become a cohesive, Pashtun led resistance to foreign occupation? Have we given Pashtuns any reason to believe that we consider them to be the enemy, Taliban or not? For heaven`s sake, are there any Taleban who are not Pashtun?
    Of course not. But making every Pashtun a de facto Talib has resulted in the singling out of Pashtun culture as the only obstacle to an otherwise effortless Afghan passage into modernity. The Pashtuns, however, see themselves as the last holdouts for Afghan freedom.
    They fight like they always have.
    BTW< I thought Hukmatyar had been captured.

  21. Yohan says:

    “P.S. Can anyone recommend a book about what happened after the Soviets left.”
    I’m sure others will mention it, but Ghost Wars by Steven Coll is a must read for recent Afghan history(1978-2001). The ISI never left the mujahideen’s side, even after the Soviets left and–as is becoming increasingly obvious–even after Americans went in.

  22. Patrick Lang says:

    I do believe she frightens easily.
    In truth, nothing about this operation seems very difficult to me.
    The Georgians offered no effective resistance so far as I can see.
    Cyberwar. I suppose the GRU or the military district equivalent did that? pl

  23. Mad Dogs says:

    Jose wrote: “P.S. Can anyone recommend a book about what happened after the Soviets left.”
    Though it is only a slice of recent Afghanistan history vis a vis the CIA, you might try “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, written by Steve Coll” which received the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.
    I found it an entirely readable book with both a broad scope view and as well as laser-like focus on a large number of “below the radar” facts that most, if not all US folks, have no idea of their government’s involvement.
    And the book includes myriad more information about the involvement of nations like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
    We keep making the same old bed, and then while sleeping in it, complain about all the lumps.

  24. PitchPole says:

    I’m with Ael on the manpads… which brings me back to a question I asked on an earlier thread: why haven’t the insurgents gotten their hands on half way decent anti-air missiles? Are they that hard to come by? Are such systems being held back by the states or actors surrounding Iraq/Afghanistan for some reason? Loss or impairment of our close air support – given how much our forces rely on it during these assaults – would seem devastating. Manpads must be on every insurgent’s wish list….

  25. Cieran says:

    Cyberwar. I suppose the GRU or the military district equivalent did that?
    Or it was delegated to Russian criminal syndicates, which run botnets for routine hire for whatever nefarious purposes one might like (botnets are networks of zombified computers, often located here in the U.S., commonly on machines sitting right there on the desk of some poor unsuspecting shlep running Windoze).
    I have not yet found any credible reasons to believe that these cyber-shenanighans were indeed the work of the Russian government (and it ain’t for lack of my trying!).
    Actually, I haven’t seen any solid evidence in the mainstream media that this episode is even part of an actual cybersecurity attack on the Georgian government. These kinds of exploits (especially the DDOS attacks) occur all the time because they are just so easy to perform, and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if the whole cyberwar story is a mere juxtaposition of events, instead of one form of warfare preceding another.

  26. Buff52 says:

    Vive L’Infanterie de la Marine!

  27. Jose says:

    I have Ghost Wars but haven’t gotten to it yet.
    Will get the bin Laden book.
    Thank you,

  28. fnord says:

    Concerning the russian bot-nets, its important to remember how integrated the Russian mafya is in the russian state. This, along with several other vectors are rarely mentioned in the MsM.

  29. J says:

    Colonel, All,
    French troops ‘killed by Nato jets’
    France’s Le Monde newspaper quoted French soldiers who had survived the ambush near Kabul on Monday saying they were hit in a “friendly fire” incident.

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