War in Afghanistan grows more unpopular among French

PARIS (l’Humanité) — According to an opinion poll done for l’Humanité on July 8-9, 70% of those questioned oppose the French military intervention in Afghanistan, as against 29% who support it, a ratio of two French people out of three. One percent of those questioned had no opinion.

For pollster Jérôme Fourquet, this poll shows that, for an overwhelming majority of French people, France’s military commitment in Afghanistan is unpopular and a withdrawal of French forces would be welcomed.

“We can see,” he pointed out, “that the longer the conflict lasts, the less popular it becomes.” He added that “we’ve gone from a 55% favorable opinion in October 2001 to 36% in August 2009, before falling to [the present level of] 29%.” “This is the lowest score ever registered.”

According to social and occupational categories, it can be noted that 75% of factory workers are opposed to the war, as against 63% of professionals and executives, a 12-point gap.

Along sex lines, a ten-point gap separates women (75% against) from men (65%).

In terms of political orientation, those sympathizing with the Front de gauche* (88%) are the most opposed to the French intervention, followed by those sympathizing with the [Trotskyist] NPA (84%). Trailing farther behind are the Verts [Green Party] (77%) and the Socialists (73%).

In the ranks of the right wing, and singularly in the governing UMP party, a majority of their sympathizers (57%) oppose the war. As to the strong opposition to the military presence in Afghanistan manifested by sympathizers of the [far-right, nationalist] Front National (79%), it is to be explained, according to Jérôme Fourquet, by “an isolationist reaction, of the ‘France has no business being down there!’ type.”

More generally, the poll confirms a previous IFOP poll done for l’Humanité in January 2010, which indicated that 80% of those questioned opposed the sending of French military reinforcements to Afghanistan to satisfy a public request from the United States, which was then preparing to send new troops.

The massive hostility to military intervention in Afghanistan is not unrelated to the political alignment of France with the United States since Nicolas Sarkozy assumed office, a policy which has resulted in a greater military effort on the ground and the death of 45 French soldiers. Indeed, the number of French military personnel has risen from a few hundred men in October 2001 to 3,750 men, and probably beyond that to 4,000 soldiers, since Admiral Edouard Guillaud, the chief of the defense staff, announced the sending of an additional 250 men.

The fact that an overwhelming majority of French people are against the active presence of the French army in Afghanistan will make the attempt by the French presidency to stifle all debate on the war problematic. Moreover, the war in Afghanistan was the pretext for France’s rejoining NATO under U.S. command. The fact is that everything leads one to believe that NATO forces have become bogged down. Whereas 521 soldiers, including 317 from the U.S., were killed in 2009, the 500-deaths threshold will probably be reached before the end of 2010; indeed, at the end of June, 2010, the toll already stood at 352 killed.

*The Front de gauche is a French electoral coalition, formed in 2009, and is composed primarily of the French Communist Party, the Left Party and the Unitarian Left. The alliance was extended for the 2010 regional elections. The Workers’ Communist Party of France and other smaller political movements joined the coalition ahead of the 2010 regional elections. [adapted from Wikipedia]

Translated from the original French article: La guerre afghane impopulaire en France. Notre sondage by Hassane Zerrouky. Translator: Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble.

Photo: Federico Coppola/CC



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