French Defense Minister Visits Afghanistan

Posted January 21st, 2012 at 5:35 am (UTC-5)
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The French defense minister arrived in Kabul Saturday for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after an Afghan solider shot and killed four French troops.

Gerard Longuet said France remains committed to bringing stability to Afghanistan. His comment follows a threat from Paris to accelerate its troop withdrawal following the deaths of the soldiers.

Longuet said he is in Afghanistan to determine the position France will take following the attack in eastern Kapisa province that also wounded 15 French troops.

The French defense minister met some of the wounded soldiers at Kabul's airport before their evacuation to France. He said the men were victims of the trust they had in the Afghan soldiers they were training.

He said Friday the French troops were not armed when the attacker opened fire. The shooter has been taken into custody.

Longuet is due to brief French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the measures being taken by the Afghans to guarantee security conditions for the French trainers.

President Sarkozy has suspended military operations in Afghanistan. Mr. Sarkozy said Friday it is “unacceptable” that Afghan troops would attack French soldiers.

A Taliban spokesman praised the attacker, but did not claim responsibility for the shooting.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected speculation that France plans to accelerate withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. She told reporters Friday in Washington that the U.S. is in close contact with France and has no reason to believe that France will do anything other than continue to be part of the transition process and exit as agreed in Lisbon.

Commander of the international forces in Kabul, John Allen, said Friday NATO will pursue a full and complete investigation of the attack and will work closely with France on the outcome.