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Paris Curbs ISAF Work After Afghan Soldier Attacks French Troops


French soldiers at Kabul International Airport late last year.

French soldiers at Kabul International Airport late last year.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that France is suspending all joint combat operations and training programs for Afghan troops after an Afghan National Army soldier apparently shot and killed four unarmed French soldiers and wounded many others in eastern Afghanistan.

Sarkozy called it "unacceptable" that Afghan soldiers would fire at French troops.

"We are the Afghan people's friends, and we are Afghan people's allies, but I can't accept that Afghan soldiers could fire on French soldiers," Sarkozy said. "If the security conditions are not clearly established, then the question of an anticipated withdrawal of the French army will be raised."

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) initially announced the January 20 incident in a statement, saying the perpetrator was an Afghan National Army soldier. ISAF said the suspected shooter had been detained.

Afghan officials said another 17 French soldiers were wounded in the incident, which took place in eastern Kapisa Province.

France has 3,600 troops serving with ISAF. More than 80 French soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

Incidents of NATO soldiers being killed by Afghan army troops have increased in recent months, undermining trust in the leadup to the withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014.

Earlier, NATO said six soldiers identified as U.S. marines had been killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on January 19.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack, but NATO said there was no insurgent activity in the area at the time of the incident.

In a statement, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said such "tragic incidents" were "isolated" and that NATO remains committed to helping Afghans take over responsibility for their country's security as foreign combat troops prepare to leave in 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that her administration was "deeply regretting" the fatal incidents and "on behalf of all Americans" expressed her "deepest condolences to the families of both those French and American soldiers."

She also maintained that she expected France to continue playing a role in the NATO effort in Afghanistan.

"We are in close contact with our French colleagues and we have no reason to believe that France will do anything other than continue to be part of the very carefully considered transition process, as we look at our exit [from Afghanistan] as previously agreed upon," she said.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also expressed his condolences and said he was "shocked by the tragic death of French and American soldiers."

"But also it's clear [that] tragic setbacks such as this must not stop our engagement for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan," he added.

compiled from agency reports

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