France threatens Afghan exit

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 French ministers said their 3,600 troops would be withdrawn unless Kabul provided "credible assurances" that the vetting of Afghan recruits would improve.

An Afghan army trainee opened fire with an automatic weapon on French soldiers during a sports exercise yesterday at a base 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 on one of 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 insisted the deaths were "murders". The foreign minister Alain Juppé spoke of a "premeditated murder in a camp shared by the Afghan and French armies."

President Sarkozy is 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 after the deaths were announced Mr Sarkozy said the "early return" of French soldiers would be considered if "security conditions are not clearly established".

Topics:  france

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