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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’opinion résolue contre la guerre

by Lionel Venturini

Afghanistan : French Public Opinion Dead Set Against the War

Translated Monday 22 August 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The latest Ifop/l’Humanité poll shows that three French people in four oppose the presence of French troops in Afghanistan; 94% consider the situation to be very difficult for French soldiers.

To this day, no fewer than 76% of the French people wish for the presence of French troops in Afghanistan to come to an end; the figure marks a steady progression in the figures relative to the previous polls published by l’Humanité. One year ago 70% were against the presence of French troops in Afghanistan, against the 64% registered against the same war in August 2009.

44% of the people polled by Ifop this summer consequently wish for the troops to be called back as soon as possible, namely before the end of this year, instead of at the 2014 deadline set in President Sarkozy’s calendar, based on the US calendar (an option favoured by 25% of the polled), and 35% wish for the troops to be called back earlier, namely in 2012 and 2013.

74th soldier killed last week

French public opinion’s resolute opposition to any further French military commitment is no doubt largely to be put down to the multiplication of French soldiers killed since 2001 - a 74th soldier was killed last week – and to the fact that a military victory over the Taliban is impossible - as well as to the fact that in the Kapisa region, where most French soldiers are based, the fighting is so heavy that of all Western powers, France pays proportionately the highest toll in number of soldiers killed. 94% of the polled consider that “the situation on the field is very difficult" and that "our soldiers are at great risk” as compared with 84% in April 2008. For 80% of the polled “the risk that Western troops may eventually get bogged down” looms as large as it did in 2008. Above all, the idea that “the presence of French troops in Afghanistan is necessary in order to fight against international terrorism” or that it has “helped the country’s progress towards democracy” is still losing support.

The anti-war feeling prevails among all social groups polled in almost equal proportions. Political preference alone is a relevant factor: even though supporters of the president’s foreign policy are to be found among members of the ruling UMP and among electors who voted for Sarkozy in 2007, our poll sounds a warning to the government, since 54% of UMP supporters now pronounce themselves in favour of a French withdrawal.

Only a minority still believes in this war

Since Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin decided to send French troops ten years ago, support has fallen from 55% originally to a mere 24% in this month’s poll, and only a minority still believes in the objectives of the war.

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