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From Afghanistan to Syria, current state of public opinion as regards defence issues

On the eve of the French national day (14 July), the possibility of a military intervention in Syria and the transfer of control of the Kapisa province from French troops to the Afghan armed forces once again place defence issues in the focus of media attention. Some weeks ago, the recently elected President of the French Republic confirmed his desire that the withdrawal of French combatant troops commence in July and be complete before the end of the current year. In line with one of his election campaign promises, François Hollande is speeding up the end of the mission launched in 2001, following the attacks of 11 September of that year. The withdrawal from Afghanistan should satisfy a large majority of the French, as an increasing proportion of public opinion has for several years questioned the legitimacy of the French intervention in this region of the globe. The matter of the early departure of our soldiers from the largest external operations theatre (OPEX) that France has known these past years provides a glimpse of the weak and unequal bond between the French and their armed forces. The general public overall supported the Harmattan Operation in Libya while seeming to be more critical of the presence of our troops in Afghanistan. Moreover, as the spectre of terrorism is fading in the minds of the French, the importance of defence issues seems to have slid to the background in favour of economic and social concerns and of internal political considerations, although defence issues do sometimes reappear as events unfold.

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