Sarkozy, Karzai to sign 20-year cooperation deal on Friday
PARIS FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will on Friday sign the first phase of a 20-year treaty committing France to supporting Afghanistan long after the withdrawal of its troops, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe announced on Tuesday.
France and Afghanistan have been discussing the “friendship and cooperation treaty” since Sarkozy visited Kabul in July last year.
Juppe said the first phase would deal with “education, health and the establishment of the rule of law.” The two leaders will sign the accord during a visit to Paris by Karzai, which comes as Sarkozy considers whether to accelerate the return of French troops following the killing of four soldiers by an Afghan soldier last week.
On Wednesday, Sarkozy is to attend a ceremony in hour of the dead soldiers at a military base in Varces, in the south-east of the country.
France has 3,600 soldiers in Afghanistan - the fourth-largest contingent after the US, British and German contingents.
Paris began bringing home troops last year, in line with a coalition plan for a full troop withdrawal by 2014.
After last week’s killings, Sarkozy - who is preparing to seek reelection in April - said he would consider speeding up the troops’ return if security conditions were not “clearly established.” The French worry that the Taliban has infiltrated the Afghan army, threatening the lives of the coalition forces that are training Afghan soldiers to take over security.
In the past few months, Afghan security forces have carried out several attacks on foreign troops.
“We need strong assurances that everything will be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Juppe told reporters in Paris.
That included “credible guarantees” from Karzai about army recruitment procedures, he said.
France’s threats to leave Afghanistan early have caused concern among its allies in the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).
“We can’t leave from one day to the next,” Juppe admitted. Any withdrawal would have to be “organised in concertation with our allies.” Defence Minister Gerard Longuet travelled to Afghanistan at the weekend to investigate the situation.