Afghans call for reprieve of killer of French troops

PARDON OR PUNISH?:The protesters issued a statement demanding Kabul spare the man who murdered five French soldiers, amid rising attacks on NATO forces by Afghans

AFP, WASHINGTON and JALALABAD, Afghanistan

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 - Page 6

Afghan student demonstrators yesterday demanded that an Afghan soldier sentenced to death for killing five French soldiers be spared execution.

A military court last week rejected an appeal by the soldier, Abdul Sabor, and the Afghan authorities have since executed 14 death row prisoners in two groups, including several Taliban insurgents.

Unconfirmed Afghan media reports have suggested that Sabor is among a third group that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved for execution.

Karzai’s office has refused to comment on the issue.

So-called green-on-blue attacks have spiraled this year, with 61 NATO soldiers having been killed by members of the Afghan security forces, fueling distrust between the allies in the war against the Taliban Islamists.

Sabor, who killed five French soldiers on Jan. 20 while they were jogging on their base in the eastern province of Kapisa, is the first Afghan convicted by a court of carrying out such an attack.

The French casualties prompted France to withdraw its combat forces from Afghanistan earlier than planned. It ended its combat mission in Kapisa last week.

About 500 university students blocked a key road linking the eastern town of Jalalabad to the Afghan capital of Kabul and chanted anti-government slogans, a reporter said.

“We demand the president withdraw a decree that approves the execution of Abdul Sabor, the soldier who is accused of killing five French troops,” a statement by the demonstrators said.

The students demanded an end to the execution of “all political prisoners,” a reference to the Taliban militants held in Afghan prisons.

They also burned Israeli and US flags in protest over the eight days of violence between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip that left six Israelis and 166 Palestinians dead.

Meanwhile, the administration of US President Barack Obama said it plans to keep about 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations end in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported late on Sunday.

Citing unnamed senior US officials, the newspaper said the plan was in line with recommendations presented by US General John Allen, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, who has proposed a force of between 6,000 and 15,000 US troops.

This force will conduct training and counterterrorism operations after the NATO mission in Afghanistan formally concludes, the report said.

About 67,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan alongside 37,000 coalition troops, and the 337,000 local soldiers and police that make up the Afghan National Security Forces.

The US and Afghanistan launched crucial talks on Nov. 15 on the status of US forces remaining in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal.

The US has stressed that it is not seeking permanent bases in Afghanistan. It is also considered likely to shy away from a security guarantee, which would require it to come to the nation’s assistance against aggressors.

However, that is considered to be one of the targets of Afghan negotiators.

Karzai is said to be willing to accept a US troop presence post-2014 as long as his key demands are met.

According to the Journal, his main request is that US forces come under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts.

However, some defense analysts outside of the US government believe that the training and counterterrorism mission would require a much larger US presence, perhaps as many as 30,000 troops, the paper said.