French Minister of Defense Gerard Longuet arrived in Kabul yesterday for top-level talks as Paris warned it could accelerate its withdrawal from the 10-year war, after an Afghan soldier shot dead four French soldiers.
Longuet’s plane touched down at 9:30am and the minister briefly met 12 of the French soldiers wounded in Friday’s attack, before a plane took off to repatriate them for treatment.
“Some of them are in a life-threatening condition and one of them could die in the short term,” said chief doctor Christophe, who in keeping with French military policy was not at liberty to release his second name.
The minister is due to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan defense and interior ministers, and the US commander of the NATO force in Afghanistan General John Allen.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered Longuet and French Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud to investigate Friday’s attack and evaluate the dangers facing the French mission responsible for training Afghan troops.
The basis of Longuet’s report will determine whether Paris decides to recall its military -contingent earlier than the end of 2014 already announced.
Nineteen unarmed French soldiers were killed or wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire as they finished a workout session on a training base in Kapisa, in eastern Afghanistan.
Sarkozy immediately afterward suspended French military training and joint combat operations with Afghan troops.
The French role in the NATO-led mission is deeply unpopular at home and — less than 100 days before presidential elections — Sarkozy appears to be preparing the ground for a rapid withdrawal.
The French force currently in Afghanistan will be reduced to 3,000 toward the end of this year, with 200 scheduled to leave in March.