White House cautious after France threatens to withdraw from Afghanistan

The White House reacted cautiously Friday after France said it was considering pulling its troops out of Afghanistan early in response to an Afghan soldier killing four French troops.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said at Friday’s briefing he didn't want to "get ahead" of a possible decision made by France. He called France "a valued member of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and said "their forces have served alongside ours with valor and honor."

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"We are in regular consultation with all of our ISAF coalition partners," Carney said, adding that "it's a very tight coalition and communication is regular and frequent."

Carney would not say if the administration found it concerning that France would pull out of Afghanistan early, simply saying, "We believe the mission in Afghanistan is very important. The coalition is very important."

France suspended its training operations in Afghanistan in response to the shooting, where an Afghan wearing an Army uniform shot and killed four French troops and wounded others, according to reports from Kabul.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that the recurring deaths at the hands of Afghan soldiers could prompt his country to withdraw.

“If the security conditions are not clearly established then the question of an early return of French forces from Afghanistan will arise," Sarkozy said Friday. "The French army is in Afghanistan at the service of the Afghans, against terrorism and against the Taliban. The French army is not in Afghanistan so that Afghan soldiers can shoot at them."

It’s still unclear if the attacker was a Taliban member or if he decided to kill the French soldiers on his own, but there have been numerous attacks in which Afghan soldiers have shot at NATO forces, including U.S. troops.

An Air Force investigation released this week found that an Afghan man who killed eight U.S. soldiers in Kabul in 2011 had acted alone.

Carney, who began the briefing by stating “our thoughts and prayers go out to the French people,” said the United States is committed to training Afghan security forces ahead of a planned transfer of control to the Afghans by the end of 2014. He said President Obama will continue to focus on an Afghanistan strategy that would take “the fight to al Qaeda, with the goal of disrupting, dismantling and ultimately defeating al Qaeda.

"That process is in place," Carney added. "It's a process that we obviously are significantly engaged in, but it includes all of our ISAF partners."

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