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Four French soldiers killed in Kapisa

June 9, 2012

By Tim Foxley

In Kapisa province, a suicide attacker has killed four French soldiers and wounded five others (three seriously).   The attacker was believed to have been disguised in a burqa, presumably to allow the assailant to get close to the targets.   The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate website has already claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they had killed 14 French soldiers.  According to icasualties.com, the French have suffered 86 killed since 2001 and eight now this year.  The other four that died this year were at the hands of a member of the Afghan National Security Forces – with sixteen other French soldiers wounded in the same incident.  The most notorious incident involving French troops engaging insurgents came in August 2008, where 10 were killed and 21 wounded in a two-day prolonged gun battle with insurgents in Kabul province.

The new French President, Francois Hollande, confirmed last month, at the NATO summit in Chicago, that French troops would be withdrawn by 2013 and that downsizing would start this year (actually from next month).    France currently has approximately 3,300 service personnel inside Afghanistan.

This is another hard hit for the French contingent in ISAF to absorb, but absorb it they will.  Politically they have little other option: they are already hastening their extraction from Afghanistan in advance of 2014.  The new incident – which is probably made more stark due to the overall reduction in the amount of ISAF combat operations – is unlikely to have any impact on French planning either way.  The alleged use of the burqa by the insurgent attacker sounds plausible – there have been several claims of attackers adopting the same tactic and even of fighters being captured in female dress.  It is routinely and aggressively denied by the Taliban media spokesmen.

Although the Taliban claims to have killed 14 soldiers can be discounted (because of a combination of willful distortion and excessive credence given to early reports), nevertheless, multiple-death incidents against ISAF forces are of particular value for the insurgent’s propaganda machine.  The strike will be a painful reminder of the on-going vulnerabilities of ISAF soldiers even as ANSF forces increasingly pick up the security responsibility.

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