France: No Room For Maneuver in Uzbekistan, Turkey
France is finding it difficult these days to get its troops to and from the fight in Afghanistan. In an interview with L'Orient-Le Jour, the French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet says that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan via Uzbekistan and the rest of the Northern Distribution Network is "too costly." From RFE/RL, which cited the interview:
Longuet said the route was "not optimal" for withdrawing NATO forces but conceded the better option -- via Pakistan -- was currently more complicated due to "spoiled relations" between NATO countries, particularly the U.S., and the Pakistani government.
That chill in ties followed a November 26 NATO air strike that hit Pakistani troops on Pakistan's side of the Afghan border, killing 26 soldiers.
The interview doesn't give any indication of how France intends to deal with that dilemma. France, of course, just announced that it is withdrawing from Afghanistan a year earlier than planned, after four of its troops were killed by a rogue Afghanistan government soldier. That, too, could be pinned on the Americans; the killer allegedly attacked the French because he was angry about a video showing U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban members.
But France has only itself to blame for another military logistics headache: After the French Senate passed a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide, Turkey apparently cut off access to its air space and sea lanes to French forces, reported Radio France Internationale:
[T]wo French warships and a military plane have had to change their route after being denied access to Turkish waters or airspace, the French ambassador to Turkey has told RFI.
France will no longer ask for permission for military missions to cross over Turkey or through its waters until the spat about the law is resolved, he said.
And in a sad, ironic twist, RFI reported that in all likelihood, the plane that had to be diverted was one carrying the bodies of the four French soldiers.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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