France to slash active overseas troops
Defence minister announces plans to drastically reduce number of military personnel sent overseas.15 May 2008
PARIS - France plans to drastically reduce the number of military personnel it deploys overseas in active theatres of war, Defence Minister Herve Morin said Wednesday.
"Who thinks in 15 or 20 years to come - with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact and the enlargement of the European Union that we will need 50,000 men in central Europe?" said Morin, at the end of parliamentary committee consultations on the matter.
France is committed until the end of 2008 to being in a position to deploy 50,000 men plus naval and air force hardware and logistical back-up at any given moment.
Without spelling out what the new figure is likely to be, Morin said President Nicolas Sarkozy had indicated his desire to cut back sharply.
"If France is still capable of sending 30,000 or 40,000 men into theatre around the Mediterranean, looking at the big picture, that would hardly turn France into a second-class military power," Morin stated.
Rejecting charges cut-backs could leaving the military ill-equipped, Morin said that since the Suez Crisis of 1956, France had "never planned (to use) more than 30,000 men."
During the first Gulf war of 1990-1991, France deployed just over 10,000 military personnel and Morin was quick to point out that Paris no longer operates overseas unless "in a system of coalition or alliance, and (backed by) United Nations resolutions."
France presently has some 11,000 serving military personnel in areas such as Afghanistan, Lebanon or Chad.
New government proposals to lay down a military policy framework for the next 15 years are set to be published in June.
The French army is bracing itself for numbers being slashed, with France's budgetary deficit an important factor and the experience of neighbours such as Britain suggesting larger-scale cut-backs.
Morin already confirmed in April the loss of 6,000 defence jobs per annum over the next six or seven years - out of a current total of 426,000 military and civilian defence ministry employees.
Military construction projects for large-scale armaments such as air-carriers have also been facing budgetary pressures, partnerships with such as Britain moving to the head of the French military agenda.
[AFP / Expatica]