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France Rules Out Hasty Afghan Withdrawal


French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks to French troops at the 152nd Infantry Regiment military base in Tora in the region of Surobi, Afghanistan, July 12, 2011.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks to French troops at the 152nd Infantry Regiment military base in Tora in the region of Surobi, Afghanistan, July 12, 2011.

France has ruled out a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan after an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French troops last week.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy suspended military operations in Afghanistan and said he was considering an early pullout from the country if security conditions are not clearly established following Friday's attack in eastern Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told parliament that France will not give in to panic and immediately withdraw all French troops from Afghanistan this year. He said calls for a complete withdrawal of troops by the end of of 2012 have not been thought through.

France has about 3,600 soldiers serving in Afghanistan, mainly in the east, with all French combat troops scheduled to leave the country in 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai left Tuesday for a five-day trip to Turkmenistan and Europe. He is expected to travel to France, where his office says he will sign a strategic partnership treaty with President Sarkozy.

On Friday, an Afghan soldier opened fire on unarmed French troops during a training exercise at a base in Kapisa province. The shooting was the latest in a series of incidents in which international troops have been killed by Afghan security forces.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated the attack was isolated. He told the French newspaper Le Monde Tuesday that he understood France's concerns about security and that the process of recruiting Afghan soldiers must be reexamined.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet was quoted as saying the shooter was an insurgent infiltrator. But NATO officials said Tuesday it was too early to tell if the Taliban was behind last week's killing of the four French troops.

Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen told reporters said that past investigations into similar events have found many different reasons for them.

He said "there are no indicators of a systemic issues of infiltration" by the Taliban into the Afghan security forces and that officials look at this "closely every day."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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