Bloomberg News

France Suspends Afghan Army Role After Four Soldiers Killed

January 23, 2012

(Updates with Longuet, Juppe in sixth and seventh paragraphs.)

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- France suspended its operations with the Afghan army and may withdraw its forces, President Nicolas Sarkozy said after an Afghan soldier killed four French military personnel.

France halted training and support for the Afghan army and is sending Defense Minister Gerard Longuet and its military chief of staff to Afghanistan to assess the situation, Sarkozy said in a speech to foreign ambassadors in Paris. Seventeen French soldiers were injured in today’s attack, Matiullah Safi, police chief of Kapisa province, where it occurred.

“If we are not satisfied with the level of security, we will draw the consequences,” Sarkozy told the diplomats. “I will go so far as to order an early withdrawal of our troops,” he said. “We are there as friends of the Afghan people. We cannot accept that an Afghan soldier fires on French troops.”

The assault was the deadliest on French forces since a suicide bomber killed five as they rode in a convoy near Kabul in July. France contributes almost 4,000 of the 130,000 troops in the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the fourth-largest contingent. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement he was saddened by the incident and offered his condolences to families of the victims and the French people. Karzai is scheduled to meet with Sarkozy Jan. 27 in Paris.

In today’s attack, the Afghan soldier opened fire at a base shared by the two armies in the Tagap valley, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Kabul, the capital, Safi said by phone. French troops detained the assailant, he said.

The French soldiers were unarmed, Longuet said in an interview with France 2 television.

Longuet’s mission will be “to investigate the measures the Afghan army is taking to secure its recruitment and what security measures it is taking in its relations with the French contingent,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a press conference today.

Today’s attack came a month after a gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed two members of the French Foreign Legion in eastern Afghanistan.

Tensions Rise

Afghan troops or police attacked ISAF personnel in more than three dozen incidents between 2007 and last year, according to a classified report by the coalition cited today by the New York Times. In one of the deadliest cases, an Afghan air force pilot on April 27 killed eight U.S. military personnel and a contract employee of the coalition.

Tensions between Afghans and the U.S. forces escalated last week when video footage emerged showing U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of Afghan Taliban they had killed in a battle. Karzai condemned the incident, and the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service said it had begun an inquiry.

The classified ISAF report said deep cultural clashes and mutual anger between U.S. and Afghan troops are increasing the threat of violence between the two forces, the Times reported. The newspaper said it obtained a copy of the study, titled “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” which was based on interviews with more than 850 U.S. and Afghan troops and their interpreters.

ISAF declined to comment on the report, the newspaper said.

--With assistance from James Rupert in New Delhi. Editors: Mark Williams, Eddie Buckle

To contact the reporters on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net; Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul at enajafizada1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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