Get Adobe Flash player

Daily Archives: August 25, 2008

French troops caught by too much trust, says general

French forces caught in a deadly ambush that killed 10 men in Afghanistan this week had been too "trusting", the top French general with the NATO force said yesterday.
The soldiers were ambushed Monday in the Sarobi area, about 50 kilometres east of the capital Kabul, in the deadliest battle for international troops in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
"We were misled by too much trust," General Michel Stollsteiner told reporters in Kabul.
The unit that was ambushed had gone to the same area three days before the attack, said Stollsteiner, who also commands the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) central region — Kabul and surrounds, including Sarobi.
"There had been only one area, at the northern limits, where villagers told them, 'Do not go beyond that limit because otherwise there will be problems,'" he said.
The ambush, and fierce fighting that followed, left 10 French soldiers dead and 21 wounded.
Stollsteiner said he had since "ordered the commanders of the battalion to increase their vigilance at particular points of the zone and where they have the slightest doubt."
They were also establishing "close-by the support that allows us to accomplish our mission in the best conditions," he said.
There was meanwhile new emphasis on the importance of intelligence, he said.
"We can request the means of ISAF which allow a good look at the terrain that we are going into," he said.
That included drones and also special forces, he said.
"We had even asked for them before (the ambush)," he said.
An investigation into the circumstances of the incident had not yet been undertaken but a review had to be conducted and forwarded to top levels of the French military, the general said.
This would included a "dissection" of all details of the event, including how it unfolded, preparations and orders given.
Chief of the Defence Staff General Jean-Louis Georgelin was meanwhile expected in Kabul this week, he said.

Thatcher’s daughter writes of mother’s dementia

The daughter of British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher tells how her mother's dementia has left her struggling to remember the simplest facts in book extracts published yesterday.
Carol Thatcher wrote that, on her worst days, her mother struggles to finish sentences but shows occasional glimpses of her old self, particularly when talking about her time in Downing Street.
"I had always thought of her as ageless, timeless and 100 percent cast-iron damage-proof," Carol Thatcher wrote in her memoir, "A Swim-On Part In The Goldfish Bowl", which was serialised in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
"Whereas previously you never had to say anything to her twice because she'd already filed it away in her formidable memory bank, Mum started asking the same questions over and over again, unaware she was doing so."
She also wrote of how her mother keeps forgetting that husband Denis died in 2003.
"I had to keep giving her the bad news over and over again," she wrote.
"Every time it finally sank in that she had lost her husband of more than 50 years, she'd look at me sadly and say 'Oh' as I struggled to compose myself.
"'Were we all there?' she'd ask softly."
Carol Thatcher also recalled how when a friend asked her mother about Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, "she snapped back into Iron Lady mode and was utterly engaging."
Thatcher, nicknamed the Iron Lady, was Britain's first and so far only female premier and was in office as head of a Conservative government between 1979 and 1990.
Now aged 83, she gave up speaking in public in 2002 on the advice of her doctors after a series of small strokes.