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France discusses new Afghan measures after attacks

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2011 7:49 AM
France discusses new Afghan measures after attacks

By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy held a meeting to discuss new security measures for soldiers in Afghanistan, a day after France suffered its biggest one-day troop loss since 2008.

"(The meeting is) to reorganize the new security conditions for our soldiers in this period of transition that begins today and the departure of French troops from Afghanistan," Sarkozy said.

Five French soldiers were killed after a suicide attack in Afghanistan on Wednesday, and four others were seriously injured.

Another French soldier was killed on Thursday, Sarkozy's office said in a statement, taking the death toll in 2011 to 18, already its biggest yearly loss in the 10-year operation.

The meeting held with the prime minister, foreign minister defense minister and the armed forces chief will take stock of Wednesday's attack.

"There is a new context and to face this we need new security measures," he added.

"The most complex period is the transition and withdrawal," Sarkozy said after the July 14 military parade. "We are not abandoning the Afghans, but moving from military help to an economic and educational help."

Sarkozy, who visited Afghanistan on Tuesday, detailed his plan to withdraw 1,000 troops by the end of 2012, ahead of a complete pullout in 2014.

"This is not a good signal because it shows that our troops will now be a lot less offensive because we are leaving," military analyst Jean-Dominique Merchet said. "Clearly the insurgents now have the upper hand."

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001. More than 2,500 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan since the war began almost 10 years ago.

Wednesday's attack on the French troops was the worst since 2008 when 10 soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in a battle against Taliban insurgents.

France has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan and has now seen 70 of its soldiers killed since it joined the U.S. and NATO-led Afghanistan operations in 2001.

(Additional reporting by Yves Clarisse; Editing by Alison Williams)