French President Francois Hollande has said a suicide attack that killed four French soldiers will not affect his country’s exit timetable. The deaths come as France prepares for parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Hollande said it was not possible to speed up French plans for combat troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year in light of the soldiers' deaths.
"What happened does not change anything, it neither accelerates nor delays" withdrawal plans, Hollande said.
Despite some calls for the withdrawal to be accelerated, said Hollande, "it is not possible to go faster."
The four killed on Saturday were taking part in a "control operation" in the restive eastern border province of Kapisa, according to the French Defense Ministry. A bomber dressed in a burqa blew himself up near the patrol.
France is going to the polls, with Hollande's Socialists eager to take control of the National Assembly
They were the first French troops to be lost since January when a rogue Afghan soldier shot four dead and injured 15 others.
Hollande said that the withdrawal of combat troops would be completed, as according to his campaign pledge, by the end of 2014.
"In the meantime, everything must be done for our troops to meet their obligations but with the highest level of security and with the greatest vigilance for the lives of the soldiers."
"…I will be the guarantor for this operation," said the Socialist president.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost to Hollande in March, had set a deadline to bring troops home for the end of 2013. Hollande promised to bring that timetable forward.
Francevotes on Sunday in the first round of elections for the legislature, in which Hollande's Socialists aim to wrest control of the National Assembly from the conservatives.
The process of withdrawal still remains a complex operation. Although 2,000 combat troops are to leave Afghanistan in the coming six months, personnel would remain behind to repatriate military equipment including 900 armored vehicles and more than 1,000 containers.
rc/slk (AFP, Reuters)