French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Wednesday that French troops would stick it out in Afghanistan despite an especially deadly attack and frustration at home about the war.
“We have to be here,” he said in Kabul, adding he had no regrets for sending 700 reinforcements to the French contingent. “If it had to be done again, I would do it.”
Sarkozy spoke to French troops from units that lost some of the 10 soldiers killed in a fierce Taliban ambush and firefight in mountains 30 miles east of Kabul on Monday. It was the deadliest attack on international troops in Afghanistan since 2005.
“The best way of remaining faithful to your comrades is to continue the work, to lift your heads, to be professional,” he said.
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“A part of the world's freedom is at stake here. This is where the fight against terrorism is being waged.”
Meanwhile, survivors of the ambush criticized France's handling of it, and the leader of the opposition Socialists raised questions about the French troop presence in Afghanistan.
French survivors quoted in the newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday said the soldiers were hit by friendly fire from NATO aircraft trying to free them, and that the troops waited four hours for reinforcements. There was no immediate official reaction to the claims.
U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Pentagon had “no reports of fratricide caused by close air support.”
Sarkozy met Wednesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace. Karzai attributed the recent rise in violence to the lack of attention that NATO and Afghanistan have paid to militant sanctuaries and training grounds, a clear reference to Pakistan's tribal area.