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May – Three months before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban – France Afghans began evacuating works with their families for its embassy and other French organizations.
Officials said 623 people were flown to France in the weeks before the Afghan army collapsed and the Islamic militant group took power. These evacuations come in addition to the 800 Afghans and family members who worked with the French army and were already relocated after Paris ended military operations in Afghanistan in 2014. France also repeatedly told its citizens to leave.
At the time, the French decision caused repeal of NGOs and of some of France’s European allies. Concerned about the apparent abandonment of Afghanistan, they accused the French of being overly pessimistic about the security impact of President Joe Biden’s announcement of a full US military withdrawal by September.
France’s foresight over the impending collapse of Kabul contrasts with the lack of American readiness and has caused speculation that French spies know something the Americans do not know.
But senior Paris officials and independent analysts say they shared the same intelligence and the difference was in their rating. When the French were able to take a more passionate view and draw the obvious conclusions about the consequences of the American withdrawal, the Americans were blinded by their long association with the Afghan army, their investment of more than $ 1 million in the country, and by the cumbersome nature of their own intelligence systems.
“I want to pay tribute to our analysts because we have the same information as everyone else,” said a senior French official. ‘It was actually the analysis that was different, in the sense that we only envisioned the worst case scenario when the Americans decided to leave.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a peace expert in charge of a conflict resolution program at Columbia University in New York, said: ‘I think sometimes you are more objective when you are more away from everyday events. The Americans were really in trouble with the Afghan forces. ”
According to Myriam Benraad, professor of international relations at Schiller International University, the biggest failure was not underestimates the Taliban but the ‘wishful thinking’ in overestimating the strength, coherence and loyalty of the Afghan army on which Biden relied to keep Afghan cities afloat while US forces withdrew.
“I do not buy the ‘spectacular last attack’ from the Taliban in Afghanistan,” she said. “We have this completely distorted view of the Afghan army that retains control of the area. . . when they went to the Taliban ”.
She said the Afghan army “did not give the right information about the Afghan forces” and the Americans “wanted to believe them after investing so much…. We have seen it elsewhere.”
One lesson from past failures in the United States, whether in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, or elsewhere, is indeed that more intelligence capabilities do not necessarily mean better intelligence. François Heisbourg, special adviser to the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, said his perverse law of American shortcomings was that “the greater the investment of intelligence in the Middle East, the greater the failure”.
France is not always at the forefront of intelligence analysis, and has struggled to counter the failure of its own endless war against Islamists in the Sahel sub-Saharan Africa – a conflict that is often named “France’s Afghanistan” to the annoyance of the advisers of President Emmanuel Macron.
And in Afghanistan, even the relatively informative French were caught by the sudden start of the last Taliban takeover of Kabul in mid-August.
Like other countries such as Germany and India, France relied on US military control of the city’s airport, while snatching a further 3,000 French civilians and vulnerable Afghan contacts when Ambassador David Martinon and the last French special forces on Sunday returned to France. When it comes to the last march in Kabul: “I do not think they expected it,” Benraad said.