Karzai meets Sarkozy after French troop pull-out threat

AFP , Friday 27 Jan 2012

Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy after Sarkozy made the threat to withdrew French troops forces ahead of 2014 for a pullout of all US-led combat troops

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (R) and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai sign an international agreement during a meeting at the Chigi Palace in Rome January 26, 2012. (Photo:Reuters)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Friday, a week after the French leader threatened to pull his troops out of Afghanistan.

Sarkozy made the threat to withdraw French forces ahead of the 2014 deadline for a pullout of all US-led combat troops after an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French soldiers in an attack that left 15 other troops wounded.

But Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said later that France would not give in to "panic" and "must not confuse an orderly withdrawal with a rushed withdrawal".

Karzai is on a five-day European trip to sign long-term strategic partnership agreements aimed at bolstering support for Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.

In Paris, Sarkozy was expected to outline to his Afghan counterpart his plans to bring home the 3,600 French soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan.

Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, who is tipped to beat Sarkozy in elections in three months, pledged Thursday to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan this year if he becomes president.

Most French -- 84 percent of them -- also want the troops back home by the end of 2012, according to a CSA opinion poll published this week.

NATO's chief called on allies Thursday to remain committed to the security transition in Afghanistan after France's pullout threat.

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he understood French concerns after the Afghan soldier killed the unarmed troops last Friday, but noted that NATO nations agreed on a 2014 date to withdraw combat forces and transfer security to Afghans.

After the deaths of the four soldiers, Sarkozy sent his Defence Minister Gerard Longuet to Kabul to evaluate ways to improve the security of the French troops who are training up the Afghan army.

Longuet said he was told the killer was a Taliban infiltrator in the Afghan army, but Afghan security sources said he opened fire because of a video showing US Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban, usually quick to claim coalition deaths, said they were investigating and suggested some of the many attacks by Afghan soldiers on their foreign counterparts were prompted by anger towards the "invading enemy".

The US, Britain and Germany are the the main contributors to the NATO-led force of some 130,000 troops fighting a 10-year insurgency by hardline Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

A total of 82 French troops have been killed there since the start of their deployment in 2001.

Karzai was due to travel later Friday to London to meet Prime Minister David Cameron.

On Thursday he and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti signed a long-term strategic partnership agreement in Rome. Italy currently has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.

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