Is The French Military Stretched Too Thin? With France engaged on several military fronts, analysts warn that the armed forces are in crisis. As foreign interventions, like the one in Libya, drag on, many are wondering if public support and the country's budget will be able to keep pace.
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Is The French Military Stretched Too Thin?

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Is The French Military Stretched Too Thin?

Is The French Military Stretched Too Thin?

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

France is fighting several wars this year. From the Ivory Coast to Libya, the French military has been a major player in President Nicolas Sarkozy's activist foreign policy. And as these military interventions go on, many people in France wonder if public support, and the country's budget, will be able to keep up. Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

G: (Singing in foreign language)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: That's an exaggeration, says Jean Pierre Maulny, of the Paris-based International Strategic Research Institute. But Maulny says it will be hard to keep this momentum up for the long or even the medium term.

M: (Through translator): It's true that the Charles de Gaulle needs routine maintenance. And while we have enough pilots to continue flying sorties over Libya, we cannot for the moment train new ones. The intervention in Libya is led by the Europeans. And countries will start dropping out, and public support eroding, if we do not find a political solution soon.

BEARDSLEY: France budgeted around $1.2 billion to support its military operations abroad this year in places like Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and Chad, says military consultant Pierre Conesa. And then Sarkozy decided to intervene in Libya.

M: So there is a very important political debate how to fund these kind of political decisions which suppose military means.

BEARDSLEY: French pilots in Rafale and Mirage jets have flown about a third of the NATO missions over Libya, taking off from bases like this one in Corsica. The Libya intervention is estimated to cost France about $1.5 million a day. Yet so far, it enjoys bipartisan support in Parliament. The public, too, is largely supportive. Stephen Ekovich is a professor of international studies at the American University in Paris.

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INSKEEP: The French public still wants their president to play a very important role on the world stage. The French have, of course, an expectation. The grandeur of France is still very important. So there's an internal political dimension to this as well.

BEARDSLEY: And there's a price to be paid.

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U: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: In Libya, the French president's bold moves have paid off so far, but Sarkozy knows the situation must now be resolved quickly or public opinion will turn against him.

M: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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