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French Defense Minister Visits Afghanistan


French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet (R) stands in front of the four coffins of French soldiers to pays his respects during a ceremony at Kabul Airport in Kabul on January 21, 2012.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet (R) stands in front of the four coffins of French soldiers to pays his respects during a ceremony at Kabul Airport in Kabul on January 21, 2012.

The French defense minister arrived in Kabul Saturday for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after an Afghan solider shot and killed four French troops.

Gerard Longuet said France remains committed to bringing stability to Afghanistan. His comment followed a threat from Paris to accelerate its troop withdrawal following the soldiers' deaths.

Longuet said he is in Afghanistan to determine the position France will take following the attack in eastern Kapisa province that also wounded 15 French troops.

Longuet met some of the wounded soldiers at Kabul's airport before their evacuation to France. He said the men, who were not armed when the attacker opened fire, were victims of the trust they had in the Afghan soldiers they were training. The shooter has been taken into custody.

Commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, joined Afghan President Hamid Karzai in condemning the incident and acknowledging France's generous and extensive assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Allen said he is forever grateful to these soldiers for their exceptional courage, dedication to duty, character, and service to their homeland.

Also Saturday, NATO said one of its service members died following an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan. The statement gave no other details.

Longuet is due to brief French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the measures being taken by the Afghans to guarantee security conditions for the French trainers.

President Sarkozy on Friday suspended military operations in Afghanistan, saying it is "unacceptable" that Afghan troops would attack French soldiers.

A Taliban spokesman praised the attacker, but did not claim responsibility for the shooting.

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

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