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Paul Quilès wants to open the debate: why are we in Afghanistan? (interview)

(BRUSSELS2 / Interview) Paul Quilès, former Minister of Defense under F. Mitterrand (from 1985 to 1986), and of the Interior (from 1992 to 1993), is a man who does not mince his words. And regularly holds a blog (him too!) where he says what he thinks. One of the first political tenors also to demand (it is in Le Monde), the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. This deserved some explanations which he was kind enough to give me (interview collected by telephone).

The debate in France on Afghanistan seems weak in France?

"Yes, I've been complaining for a long time. It's amazing: why France would be the last country not to ask the basic questions. These are often eluded by ignorance of the file or presented in a misleading manner. What is more serious is that we don't really know what objective we are defending, why are we staying? : fight Al Qaeda, promote democracy, promote the development of the country. We make everyone cry about women's rights. But we mix everything. All the arguments, taken one after the other, do not hold. You really have to ask yourself the question: What are we doing there?…

A base for terrorism?

But no. This is no longer a war against international terrorism. The 150 foreign soldiers are not, in fact, fighting a handful of fanatics. That does not make sense. They are grappling with three movements – that of Mullah Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani – with primarily national objectives and which enjoy significant support among the population. As for rebuilding a nation state, Afghanistan has been in civil war for 000 years, it is not with soldiers that we are going to do it. This is the role of the UN.

How do you see the role of Europeans?

This points to a deeper political problem. The (European) armed wing needs political power; there can be no armed wing without political power. Today, in fact, everyone is playing their game. There are those who don't want to hurt Americans, those who are afraid of their public opinion, those who want to save money...

And in the end, nothing then?

Yes. Europe is thus paying for its inability to think together, in a common way. From the moment when there is no debate, or when it is not coordinated, we become "auxiliaries" of the Americans.

There are still margins of action. How to do ?

Europeans should be aware that we can represent something. Each state, each dominant party should be willing to ask the question at European level, to have a little more weight. And we should define what to do (tactical debate) and why we do it (strategic debate). What is the objective: to stabilize an unstable region, the fight of good against evil (fight against Islamic terrorism), to rebuild the country...

You are very tough, very clear on Afghanistan. But we don't hear much from your party, the PS, on this issue?

I would like him to express himself.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).