France tempers talk of quick Afghanistan pullout

AP News
Posted: Jan 24, 2012 2:44 PM
France tempers talk of quick Afghanistan pullout

France's troops won't be pulled hastily from Afghanistan, says foreign minister Alain Juppe, adding that talk of a retreat by the end of 2012 isn't "well thought out and examined."

Speaking Tuesday during a question and answer session in parliament, Juppe said "when I hear talk of an immediate pullout, or even by the end of 2012, I'm not sure that's well thought out and examined."

Last week Francois Hollande _ the Socialist front-runner in next spring's presidential election _ pledged to bring France's roughly 4,000 troops home from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

That followed President Nicolas Sarkozy's comment that if security for troops is not restored, "then the question of an early withdrawal of the French army would arise."

Sarkozy suspended training missions and threatened to withdraw French troops early from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan following Friday's shooting deaths of four French troops by an Afghan soldier.

A team of police investigators will travel to eastern Afghanistan to investigate the killings at a base in eastern Gwan, according to a French military official.

Five or six investigators are to travel Wednesday or Thursday in response to a request for help from authorities who are currently holding a suspect and have asked for support from French police.

The official spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet traveled to Afghanistan to investigate over the weekend and is to issue a report to Sarkozy.

Current plans are for French troops to return home by 2014, when NATO is due to wind up its combat mission in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan Tuesday, President Hamid Karzai declared an emergency in the mountainous Badakhshan province in the northeast.

He promised a relief fund of $160,000 after heavy snow and avalanches killed at least 46 people in the last week. Avalanches are an annual problem in the mountainous country.