Conflict & Justice

Afghanistan: France suspends training ops after Afghan soldier shoots dead 4 French troops


France's President Nicolas Sarkozy aboard a helicopter in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 12, 2011, during a surprise visit to meet troops stationed in Sarobi district.



France has suspended all its training operations in Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier opened fire on unarmed French troops, killing four and wounding more than a dozen others.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said France would even consider pulling out of Afghanistan early if the security of its soldiers continued to be threatened, the Associated Press reported.

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The Afghan soldier has been detained by French armed forces, according to the BBC. He is said to be a member of the Afghan National Army, the military force that France, the US and other allies are responsible for training.

So far there are few details about the circumstances of the shooting, which occurred in the Tagab district of Kapisa province, north of Kabul, at a training base jointly operated by French and Afghan forces. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the incident occurred during a difficult training exercise at high altitude, while one official told the BBC it was triggered by a "verbal clash."

"From now on, all the operations of training and combat assistance by the French army are suspended," Sarkozy said in Paris following news of the attack.

"If the conditions of security are not clearly restored, then the question of an early withdrawal of the French army would arise.

"The French army is in Afghanistan at the service of the Afghans against terrorism and against the Taliban. The French army is not in Afghanistan so that Afghan soldiers can shoot at them."

Longuet is headed to Kabul with army officials. The government will decide how to proceed once they report back, Sarkozy said.

France currently has around 3,600 troops in Afghanistan, who are scheduled to withdraw in 2014. It is the fourth-largest member of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The shooting was one of the deadliest on French troops in the 10 years they have been in Afghanistan, according to the AP, bringing the total number of French soldiers killed there to 82. In late December, a man dressed as an Afghan soldier gunned down two French service members in the same region, an attack claimed by the Taliban.

According to the BBC, such attacks have been on the rise – and so far the Afghan government has failed to come up with a strategy to prevent them.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to visit France next week. Sarkozy said France's role in Afghanistan would be on the agenda.

Earlier today, a helicopter crash in the southern Afghan province of Helmand province killed six US Marines, according to NATO military command in Kabul, MSNBC reported.

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