French Aviators Still Providing Logistical Support in Afghanistan
The French Air Force has helicopter pilots and crews flying transport aircraft providing a vital logistics support for troops in Afghanistan, the air chief of staff, Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros, said at the Farnborough International Airshow.
“Our aviators assure an important logistical support,” Palomeros said July 9 in a television interview with specialist website European-Security.org.
French president François Hollande’s decision to pull troops out of combat in Afghanistan by the end of 2012 has focused attention on the ground soldiers stationed in theater.
The French Air Force can also intervene in Afghanistan, if needed, from its permanent base in the United Arab Emirates, Palomeros said.
The Air Force has some 300 personnel and two Transall transport planes in Afghanistan, backed up by a third unit in Dushanbe in neighboring Tajikistan, an Air Force officer said. The service’s commando unit is expected to remain behind to help train Afghan Army units.
A detachment consisting of around 100 personnel and three Mirage 2000D fighter bombers ended on July 5 their last mission in Afghanistan and returned to France, the Air Force said in a statement.
The unit flew out of the Kandahar air base and returned to their home base at Nancy, eastern France. Palomeras attended a homecoming ceremony July 10.
For nearly five years, the French unit supported a succession of Mirage 200D, Mirage F1 CR reconnaissance planes and Rafale multirole fighters, which flew a total 7,200 missions and more than 26,000 flight hours. The missions included the use of weapons more than 380 times, including cannon fire and bombs.
France had some 3,550 soldiers and paramilitary gendarmes in Afghanistan in June, based in Kabul, Kandahar, Kapisa and Surobi provinces, and the logistics base at Dushanbe, Le Monde reported.
France’s withdrawal of units from combat missions by the end of 2012 was earlier than the 2014 date set by NATO allies, and sparked much public debate.