With the French Forces In Afghanistan: At Crucial Point of Transition
06/26/12: Second Line of Defense’s Murielle Delaporte recently spent ten days with the French forces in Afghanistan on the ground. We interviewed her today by phone, just after her return to Paris. She returned on the same plane with the dead and wounded from the Taliban terrorist attack in Kapisa.
SLD: Coming back on the plane, what message would you give to the parents who have lost their sons?
Delaporte: Recognizing that I was the least important person on the flight out, I would tell these parents that their sons died in a just cause for people who deserve better than being oppressed and murdered by the Taliban.
During my time there, many of the soldiers talked about the progress in the country with a sense of pride. As a result of their daily action and commitment, many of the tasks that the French hitherto had to do now have been transferred to the Afghan forces, both military and civilians.
SLD: Give us a sense of some of your experiences and how they reflected the current situation?
Delaporte: There was a clear difference between areas that had been secured and those that have not been. In Kapisa, in the Green Valley, the leaves are on the trees. These provide cover and concealment for the Taliban and increase the risk to the French and Afghan soldiers. In the open areas, the threat range from IEDS and artillery fire to suicide bombers. This last event led to the death of the soldiers with whom I returned back to Paris.
In contrast to Kapisa, the town of Surobi – the other area where the French are located – is largely pacified.
SLD: You flew on an MI-8 helicopter and what was that experience like?
Delaporte: A British company has a logistical contract and operates the MI-8s. Outside of secure bases, you always wear your helmet and flak jacket. Heat and altitude are a concern, which constrains operational capability and flight hours for most air assets on the ground.
SLD: How important is air support to the Afghans and to the French forces?
Delaporte: It is everything. It is one of the key elements and will grow in importance as the transition evolves. The French military helos will become proportionally a greater part of the force as withdrawal accelerates (i.e. remaining at approximately the same level while other units drawdown). Especially as the Mirages leave the combat theater, the role of the helos in providing air support tends to go up.
The Afghan military population has really come to appreciate air support as a key element of future success, as well as security (a Medevac ability being in particular part of any operation). One French officer told me that the Afghan helo force should become increasingly significant in enabling the Afghan security and defense forces, as the Coalition forces gradually enable them to take over .
SLD: Transition is always difficult and political timetables are especially challenging, notably in the context of coalition operations. What is your sense of this challenge?
Delaporte: A key challenge is working the relationship between the convey system and the various military “bases” which are networked to provide for security. It is important that the two be managed in a realistic manner.
SLD: Many coalition members have announced withdrawal for next year. Will this create a logistics traffic and log jam?
Delaporte: It could clearly happen, but the planners are anticipating this, working together to sort such a challenge out, and are capable of addressing it. But it will have an impact on the nature of the security challenges to the remaining troops, to the Afghan population and political timetables, as maintaining security remains the primary goal.
SLD: What are you final comments?
Delaporte: I was proud to be with the French forces and have the opportunity now to tell their story from a real world operational perspective. The courage and sacrifice the troops are making are notable and remarkable. I do not come back with a sense that we have wasted our time and effort, as democracy has never been built in a day nor without losses…
 For the perspective of 2nd MAW forward just returned from Afghanistan see