Sarkozy vows to keep French troops in Afghanistan
The French army suffered the worst loss of life in a quarter of a century
Nicolas Sarkozy made a brief visit to Afghanistan today after the French army`s worst loss of life by enemy attack in a quarter of a century, according to Guardian.
The French president spoke to troops from units that lost 10 men in the mountain battle about 30 miles east of Kabul on Monday.
Sarkozy said he had no regrets about sending more troops to the region earlier this year, despite the political firestorm that has broken out in France since Monday`s ambush.
"I have no doubt that we must be here. I am also in shock … but I tell you in good conscience that if we had to do it again, I would do it again," he said, according to AFP.
"Not the patrol and the sequence of events, but the choice which led me to confirm the decision of my predecessors to send the French army here.
"Why are we here? It is because here we play a part in the freedom of the world. Here we are fighting against terrorism."
London-based security thinktank the Senlis Council said western governments were "in denial" about the extent of the Taliban danger around Kabul. It said more troops needed to be deployed to secure the capital.
"Today, western leaders must ask themselves why their policies have failed," the group said in a statement. "Without urgent troop redeployment, attacks in and around Kabul are likely to be stepped up. With the Taliban on the very doorstep of the Afghan capital, the situation can only get worse for Nato-Isaf forces, and for the Afghan people."
During his five-hour trip to the country, Sarkozy met with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
Karzai has said violence is on the rise in his country because of the lack of attention Nato and Afghanistan have paid to militant sanctuaries and training grounds - a clear reference to Pakistan`s tribal area.
The French soldiers were on a patrol when they were ambushed by a force of about 100 militants in the mountains of Surobi. France`s top military official, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, said most of the French casualties came in the minutes after the soldiers ascended a mountain pass.
The French defence minister, Herve Morin, said about 30 militants were killed and 30 wounded. Taliban fighters and militants allied to the renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar operate in Surobi.
It was the deadliest attack on French troops since a bombing in Lebanon in 1983. The bodies of those who died are expected to be repatriated today.
Sarkozy boarded a plane for Afghanistan shortly after the deaths were announced, breaking away again from his holiday in the south of France. He had already interrupted his summer break to deal with the crisis between Russia and Georgia.
Militants in Afghanistan are traditionally more active in summer, and are showing greater determination to confront US and Nato troops in their attempt to wrest back the control the Taliban lost nearly seven years ago.
Sarkozy`s government faced its first vote of no confidence earlier this year when Sarkozy`s move to send 700 extra troops to Afghanistan was greeted with dismay by the opposition and members of his own rightwing party.
The deaths have been used by the opposition Socialist party to highlight its call for a national debate. "What are the aims of this war? How many troops must there be to reach its stated objectives?" said a statement from the party leader, François Hollande.
There are around 2,600 French troops in Afghanistan.