Friday Jan 20, 201201:23 PM GMT
France mulls early Afghanistan pullout
Fri Jan 20, 2012 1:9PM
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French soldiers carry the coffin of their comrades killed in late 2011 in Afghanistan, during a ceremony on the runway of Kabul Airport on December 31, 2011.
France has suspended all military training and joint operations in Afghanistan after four French troops were shot dead by an Afghan army soldier in the country's east.

"The French army stands alongside its allies but we cannot accept that a single one of our soldiers be wounded or killed by our allies, it's unacceptable," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday, after the Kapisa shooting.

Sarkozy also sent Defense Minister Gerard Longuet to Afghanistan, where he and French Army Chief of Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud will establish the circumstances of the deadly shooting that killed four French soldiers and wounded eight others.

"Between now and then all training and joint combat operations by the French army are suspended," Sarkozy announced.

"If security conditions are not clearly established, then the question of an early return of the French army will be asked," he went on to say.

France has a nearly 3,600-strong contingent, mainly stationed in the provinces of Kabul and Kapisa, within the US-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

The core mandate of the French troops is to train Afghan forces and accompany them into battle against militants.

Deployment in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular in France, where anti-war sentiments threaten Sarkozy's chances to win a tough reelection battle in less than three months.

French troops in Kapisa have reportedly spread around their base in the province and are not allowing any Afghan soldiers to approach.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday expressed his condolences after the shooting, but insisted the attack was isolated.

Paris is to reduce its force in Afghanistan to 3,000 by late 2012, in line with NATO's plan to hand over security to Afghan authorities before withdrawing all combat troops by the end of 2014.

The Friday deaths raised the French death toll in Afghanistan to 82.

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