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French lawmakers vote to keep troops in Afghanistan

Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Sept 22, 2008
French lawmakers in the National Assembly voted Monday in favour of keeping French troops in Afghanistan after 10 soldiers died in a Taliban ambush last month.

The decision to maintain the 2,600-strong French contingent in Afghanistan was approved by a vote of 343 to 210 in the lower house of parliament, where President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing party holds a majority.

The vote came after Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced France will beef up its mission with helicopters, drones and other military means amid debate over whether the soldiers died because they were poorly equipped.

The prime minister said France had "learned the lessons" from the Taliban ambush that left 10 soldiers dead and 21 wounded, the country's worst military losses in 25 years.

The opposition Socialists voted against continuing the French mission in Afghanistan to press demands that France spells out clearly its strategy in the increasingly violent country.

Socialist minority leader Jean-Marc Ayrault said France was being dragged into a "war of occupation" even though he acknowledged that it could not "suddenly disengage from Afghanistan."

The mountain ambush east of Kabul on August 18 was the deadliest ground attack on international troops since they were sent to Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the hardline Taliban regime.

The Senate, which is also dominated by the governing right, was to hold a similar vote on the Afghan mission later Monday.

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Commentary: Losing Afghanistan?
Washington (UPI) Sep 19, 2008
Is NATO losing the Afghan war, as the Soviet Union did in the 1980s and the British Empire in the 19th century? Notwithstanding NATO and U.S. denials, the answer is affirmative. And abundant evidence is provided in a detailed 113-page report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The author is Anthony Cordesman, CSIS' senior strategic thinker.

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