Sarkozy says no more troops for Afghanistan

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France will stay in Afghanistan but will not send any extra troops to the war-torn country, President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an interview published on Thursday.

"Do we need to stay in Afghanistan? I say yes. And stay to win. Not against Afghanistan, but for Afghanistan," Sarkozy told Le Figaro newspaper.

"If we leave, it is nuclear power Pakistan that will be threatened. But France will send not a single soldier more," he said.

Sarkozy said he was "convinced" more Afghan soldiers were needed to defeat the Taliban insurgency.

"They will be the most effective in winning this war because it is their country. But we need to pay them more to avoid desertions that benefit the Taliban," said the French president.

With 2,900 soldiers in Afghanistan, France is the fourth largest contributor to the NATO-led coalition battling Taliban guerrillas and training Afghan security forces, but it has repeatedly rejected pressure to send more troops.

Britain said on Wednesday that it was sending an extra 500 soldiers to reinforce its 9,000-strong force in Afghanistan while US President Barack Obama is weighing a request for tens of thousands more US troops to deploy to the bloody conflict.

Sarkozy's interview comes after a British newspaper reported that 10 French soldiers had died in Afghanistan in August last year because Italy failed to inform them of a payoff deal with the Taliban.

The Times of London said the French troops were not told that Italy had been paying the Taliban not to carry out attacks in Sarobi district east of Kabul and failed to properly assess risks.

Both the French military and the Italian government dismissed the report as "baseless," but it fuelled opposition calls in France for a parliamentary review of the mission to Afghanistan.

The French had been in charge of the area for just a month when the 10 soldiers were killed in an ambush, one of the biggest single losses of life for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Times said that because the French knew nothing of the Italian bribes they made a "catastrophically incorrect threat assessment" of the area.

This explains why the French troops were relatively lightly armed and insufficiently backed up by air cover when they were ambushed by 170 heavily armed insurgents, the report added.


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