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Sarkozy Heads to Afghanistan Following French Troop Deaths

French President Nicolas Sarkozy traveled to Afghanistan Tuesday, after 10 French troops were killed and 21 wounded in the deadliest attack in several years on French forces deployed abroad. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports for VOA.

The French troops were killed in a battle with Taliban insurgents, who, officials say, attacked NATO forces on Monday about 50 kilometers east of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Before heading to Afghanistan to honor the troops, French President Sarkozy reiterated his country's commitment to fighting terrorism. France is expected to complete a deployment of 2,600 soldiers in eastern Afghanistan by the end of the month.

Daniel Korski, a London-based defense specialist for the European Council on Foreign Relations, says the attack is the latest example of resurgent violence in Afghanistan.

"It's an incredibly dangerous mission that both French and other NATO allies are on, and what we've seen since 2007 is an increasingly capable Taliban insurgency - able to hit not just at civilian targets and the reconstruction efforts, but also against NATO soldiers," he said.

Korski says the French government is serious about its commitment in Afghanistan. But the troop deaths may fan doubts on the part of ordinary French about putting their soldiers in the line of fire - doubts that have been voiced in other European countries with troops in Afghanistan.

"The bigger problem is going to be with the French public," he said. "The mission in Afghanistan hasn't received much publicity - perhaps deliberately. And I think to a large extent, the number of deaths we're now talking about may spark the debate that has taken place in Germany, in Britain, in many other European countries - but hasn't really taken place in France yet."

The killings in Afghanistan amount to the deadliest attack on French forces since 2004, when nine French troops were killed in northern Ivory Coast, during the civil war in that West African country.