France suspended military operations in Afghanistan Friday after the killing of four more French soldiers, President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
Addressing French diplomats after an Afghan security source said four soldiers had been killed and 17 wounded by an Afghan soldier in the Taghab valley of eastern Kapisa province, Sarkozy confirmed that the dead were French.
Sarkozy said France may accelerate its planned troop withdrawal if the security situation does not improve.
"I have decided to send the defense minister and the head of the armed forces to Afghanistan and until then all training operations and combat help from French forces are suspended," said Sarkozy. "If the security conditions are not clearly established then the question of an early return of French forces from Afghanistan will arise."
The attack is among the most deadly for French forces in the 10 years they have been serving in the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan.
Afghan security forces or insurgents dressed in their uniforms have attacked and killed international troops or civilian trainers more than a dozen times in the past two years, according to an Associated Press count.
"It's unacceptable that our soldiers are killed by our allies. It's a difficult decision to make," Sarkozy said of the suspension of French operations.
It appeared to be the second time in a month that an Afghan soldier has attacked French forces. On Dec. 29, a soldier in the Afghan National Army opened fire and killed two members of the 2nd regiment of the Foreign Legion. French forces fired back and killed the assailant.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings Jr., a spokesman for the coalition, said Friday that cases where Afghan soldiers have wounded or killed coalition forces are isolated cases and do not occur on a routine basis. "We train and are partnered with Afghan personnel every day and we are not seeing any issues or concerns with our relationships," he said.
More than 2,500 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan since the NATO-led war began in 2001. The latest killings take the French toll to 82.
Meanwhile, six U.S. Marines died late Thursday when a helicopter crashed in Helmand province.
It was the deadliest crash in Afghanistan since August, when 30 American troops died after a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down in Wardak province.