The death of 10 French soldiers in an ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan has stoked a cry at home for France to rethink its commitment to the seven-year mission led by the U.S.
Most French voters want out, and the opposition is ratcheting up the pressure on President Nicolas Sarkozy's government – though analysts say France and other allies will dig in for the fight even as they insist upon a new look at NATO's strategy against the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The word “quagmire” has popped up repeatedly when Afghanistan is discussed in Paris political circles – even in Sarkozy's own party – since Monday's well-planned ambush of a French-led patrol in the Uzbin Valley east of Kabul. It was the deadliest attack on international troops in Afghanistan in more than three years, and the latest sign that the insurgency is growing stronger.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has ordered a parliamentary debate and vote on France's role in Afghanistan, part of a new law requiring a lawmaker vote on foreign military missions lasting more than four months. They are expected to take place between Sept. 22 and Sept. 30.
Analysts say there is little chance that parliament – where Sarkozy's conservatives have a large majority – will vote to end France's participation in the Afghan mission.
France has been at the side of the United States in Afghanistan ever since the allied invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban's regime. In April, Sarkozy agreed to raise the French commitment by 700 troops – to 3,300 in the Afghan theater.