France threatens Afghan exit after deadly attack

 

Paris

France is considering an early exit from Afghanistan after four unarmed French soldiers were yesterday killed by an Afghan army trainee.

President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the suspension of all training activities by French forces in Afghanistan after the second attack of its kind in a month. French ministers said that their 3,600 troops would be withdrawn unless Kabul provided “credible assurances” that the vetting of Afghan recruits would be improved.

An Afghan army trainee opened fire with an automatic weapon on French soldiers during a sports exercise yesterday at a base high in the mountains at Gwan in eastern Afghanistan. Four soldiers were killed and 15 wounded, including eight seriously.

This was the latest of a series of similar attacks on Nato troops by Afghan trainees, including the killing of two members of the French Foreign Legion in September.

Yesterday’s attack was part of one the blackest days for western troops in Afghanistan for many months. Six US marines also died when their helicopter crashed in Helmand province. US sources said it was not immediately clear whether the helicopter had been brought down by the Taliban rebels.

French ministers repeatedly insisted yesterday that the killing of their soldiers should be considered as “murders”, not combat deaths. The foreign minister Alain Juppé spoke of a “premeditated murder in a camp shared by the Afghan and French armies”.

President Sarkozy is already under pressure from opponents in this spring’s presidential election who have called for the withdrawal of French troops before a 2014 Nato deadline. In a speech a few minutes after the new killings were announced Mr Sarkozy said that the “early return” of French soldiers would be considered if “security conditions are not clearly established”. “From now on, all the operations of training and combat help by the French army are suspended,” he added.

The defence minister Gérard Longuet flew to Kabul yesterday. Mr Juppé said he would seek guarantees on the recruitment procedures for Afghan soldiers. If the assurances were not sufficient, France would “accelerate” the withdrawal of its troops.

President Sarkozy said he would discuss France’s continuing presence in Afghanistan when the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, visits Paris next Friday. “We are friends and allies of the Afghan people but I cannot accept Afghan soldiers shooting French soldiers,” he said. “We will be faced with a difficult decision in the next few weeks.”

France provides the fourth largest contingent of the 30,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan. President Sarkozy has announced that, like the 90,000 US troops, they will return home by the end of 2013.

The front-runner for the April-May French presidential polls, the Socialist candidate François Hollande yesterday repeated his call for all French troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2012.

Last year was the worst in the 10 year history of French deployment in Afghanistan. The 26 soldiers killed brought the total number of French deaths to 83.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory