US, France to 'ensure strength' of Afghan mission

Joel Saget
AFP22 January 2012
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet (R) stands in front of the coffins of four French soldiers killed in Afghanistan

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet (R) stands in front of the coffins of four French soldiers to pays his respects during a ceremony at Kabul Airport in Kabul. The United States and France have agreed to work together to ensure the "continued strength and effectiveness" of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, the State Department said on Saturday.

The United States and France have agreed to work together to ensure the "continued strength and effectiveness" of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, the State Department said.

The statement was made in telephone talks between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, after an Afghan soldier opened fire on French troops, killing four and wounding 15 others.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said Paris will consider speeding up its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the wake of the deadly incident, which his defense minister said was the work of a Taliban infiltrator.

Clinton "expressed profound condolences on behalf of the American people for the deaths of four French soldiers in Afghanistan this week," the State Department said in a statement.

She and Juppe "agreed that the US and France should work together with ISAF partners and the government of Afghanistan to ensure the continued strength and effectiveness of the mission," it said.

Sarkozy suspended French military training and joint combat operations with Afghan troops in the wake of the shooting. The 21-year-old Afghan, who has been identified as Abdul Mansour, was arrested after the incident.

Friday's attack was the second time in a month that French troops were shot dead by an Afghan army soldier, bringing the country's overall death toll to 82 since troops deployed in 2001.

France is one of the largest contributors to the 130,000-strong NATO force fighting the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until they were ousted from power in 2001 in a US-led invasion.

Clinton and Juppe also discussed the deteriorating situation in Syria ahead of upcoming Arab League meetings, the State Department said.

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