Thursday, June 14, 2007

No Drop in France Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup

By Johnny Yankee
August 7,1944; Page A01

Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent hundreds of thousands of additional troops into France, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Normandie, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.

The report -- the first comprehensive statistical overview of the new U.S. military strategy in France -- coincided with renewed fears of nationalistic violence after the bombing yesterday of the same Nazi outpost east of the Seine that was attacked in June, unleashing a spiral of retaliatory bloodshed. Local government imposed an immediate curfew in Avranches yesterday to prevent an outbreak of revenge killings.

Yesterday's attack adds to tensions faced by U.S. troops, who are paying a mounting price in casualties as they push into St. Lô neighborhoods, seeking to quell violence that the report said remains fundamentally driven by nationalism.

France's government, for its part, has proven "uneven" in delivering on its commitments under the strategy, the report said, stating that public pledges by Philippe Pétain have in many cases produced no concrete results.

Vichy leaders have made "little progress" on the overarching political goals that their stepped-up security operations are intended to help advance, the report said, calling reconciliation between Vichy, Resistance and Jewish factions "a serious unfulfilled objective." Indeed, "some analysts see a growing fragmentation of France," it said, noting that 36 percent of Frenchmen believe "the French people would be better off if the country were divided into three or more separate countries."

The 46-page report, mandated quarterly by Congress, tempers the early optimism about the new strategy voiced by senior U.S. officials. Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, for instance, in July described progress in Europe as "so far, so good." Instead, it depicts limited gains and setbacks and states that it is too soon to judge whether the new approach is working.

Nazi killings and attacks -- which were spiraling late last year -- dropped sharply from February to April, but civilian casualties rose slightly, to more than 100 a day. Despite the early drop in killings, data from the Paris morgue gathered by The New York Times in May show them returning to pre-"surge" levels last month.

Violence fell in Normandie province, where the bulk of the 1,452,000 Allied troops are located, but escalated elsewhere as German forces regroup in Southern and Eastern France. In Caen, attacks dropped by about a third, compared with the previous three months, as Allied units have organized against entrenched fighters from Germany in France, the report said.

Overall, however, violence "has increased in most provinces, particularly near Maine and Bretagne," the report said.