'France suspends Afghan training, mulls withdrawal'
France today suspended all training and joint operations in Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier shot dead four of its troops, and President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was mulling an early withdrawal.world Updated: Jan 20, 2012 16:29 IST
France on Friday suspended all training and joint operations in Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier shot dead four of its troops, and President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was mulling an early withdrawal.
"The French army is alongside its allies but we cannot accept that a single one of our soldiers be wounded or killed by our allies, it's unacceptable," Sarkozy said, dispatching defence minister Gerard Longuet to Afghanistan.
Longuet and army chief of staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud will establish the circumstances of Friday's shooting in which an Afghan soldier shot dead four French troops and wounded 16 before being arrested.
"Between now and then all training, joint combat operations by the French army are suspended," Sarkozy said.
"If security conditions are not clearly established, then the question of an early return of the French army will be asked."
France has about 3,600 soldiers serving in the country, mainly in the provinces of Kabul and Kapisa, the scene of Friday's shooting.
French troops have surrounded their base in the eastern province and are not allowing any Afghan soldiers to approach, a security source told AFP.
"We will have to take a difficult decision in the coming days. But I must assume my responsibilities before the French people and before our soldiers," Sarkozy said.
The shooting was the latest in a string of incidents of Afghan soldiers turning their weapons on members of the 130,000-strong foreign force fighting an insurgency by hardline Taliban Islamists.
Last month, two soldiers with the French Foreign Legion serving in Afghanistan were shot dead by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform during a mission in Kapisa, site of the main French base in Afghanistan.
Apart from their combat role, Nato troops are training Afghan security forces to take over when the US-led coalition ends combat operations in 2014.
The latest deaths brought to 82 the number of French soldiers killed in Afghanistan since French forces deployed there at the end of 2001. Last year was the bloodiest so far, with 26 killed.