Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing strongly condemned the West's war in Afghanistan in a recent conversation with this writer. Giscard d'Estaing, a self-described Barack Obama supporter who served as French president from 1974-81 and played a leading role in forging the European Union, was twice asked if NATO should get out of Afghanistan, and answered emphatically: "Absolutely. They never should have been there to begin with."
Giscard d'Estaing's view differs sharply with that of French president Nicolas Sarcozy who has deployed 3,750 troops to Afghanistan and engineered a return of France to the US-dominated NATO alliance. Forty-four French soldiers have died there, mainly in Kapisa province, northwest of Kabul.
Eighty percent of the French public opposed increasing military involvement in Afghanistan war, in a late 2009 survey. According to William Pfaff, "the French are using their compact contingent of commandos, paras and Foreign Legionnaires for useful if sometimes lethal training and tactical experimentation." [Herald Tribune, May 31, 2010.]
Giscard d'Estaing, a former French defense minister, said that NATO was originally a defensive alliance against the Soviet Union and never meant for wars like Afghanistan. He rejected the concept of attacking Al Qaeda havens in Afghanistan, saying that Al Qaeda can establish itself in other geographic locations, as it already has. Perhaps a United Nations monitoring presence can be left behind as the Western forces leave Afghanistan, as a trigger against a renewed Al Qaeda presence there. But the real problem, he noted, is to lessen the humiliation, which the Muslim world experiences at the hands of the West.