After troops’ death, French minister flies into Kabul

France has warned that it could accelerate its withdrawal from the 10-year war in Afghanistan.

Kabul: France`s defence minister arrived in Kabul on Saturday for top-level talks as Paris warned it could accelerate its withdrawal from the 10-year war after an Afghan
soldier shot dead four French soldiers.

Gerard Longuet`s plane touched down at 9:30 am (1030 IST) and the minister briefly met 12 of the French soldiers wounded in yesterday`s attack before a plane took off to repatriate them for treatment, a reporter said.

"Some of them are in a life-threatening condition and one of them could die in the short term," said chief doctor Christophe, who in keeping with French military policy was not at liberty to release his second name.

The French minister is due to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan defence and interior ministers, and General John Allen, the American commander of the NATO force in Afghanistan.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered Longuet and French Chief of Defence staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud to investigate yesterday`s attack and evaluate the dangers facing the French mission responsible for training Afghan troops.

The basis of Longuet`s report will determine whether Paris decides to recall its military contingent earlier than the end-2014 date already announced.

Nineteen unarmed French soldiers were killed or wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire as they finished a work-out session on a training base in Kapisa in eastern Afghanistan.

Sarkozy immediately suspended French military training and joint combat operations with Afghan troops.

The French role in the NATO-led mission is deeply unpopular at home and -- less than 100 days before Presidential Elections -- Sarkozy appears to be preparing the ground for a rapid withdrawal.

The French force currently in Afghanistan will be reduced to 3,000 by late 2012, with 200 due to leave in March. NATO is due to hand security over to Afghan forces before withdrawing all its combat troops by the end of 2014.


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