December 20th, 2007 09:37 EST
French minister sees deteriorating situation in Afghanistan
PARIS - France's defence minister is expressing concern about what he sees as a "deteriorating" security situation in parts of Afghanistan.
Herve Morin also says in an interview Thursday in the newspaper Le Monde that international efforts won't help unless the Afghan army and justice system are shored up.
However, Morin says France will only consider sending more troops to Afghanistan if a NATO review calls for new forces.
France pulled 200 special forces out of Afghanistan last December, prompting speculation that it might withdraw from the country altogether.
However, newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered more troops sent to Afghanistan this past summer to train the Afghan army.
Sarkozy is also said to be planning a trip in the coming weeks to Afghanistan, where France currently has some 2,000 soldiers.
NATO and the Bush administration are reassessing the Afghan mission to better co-ordinate the battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban, extend government control beyond the capital, Kabul, and curb opium production that funds the insurgents.
But "the question of reinforcing the French forces in Afghanistan could only be raised in the framework of a global review about NATO action in this country," Morin told the newspaper.
The United States, whose military is already heavily deployed in Iraq, has been lobbying its NATO allies for a greater contribution of troops and equipment for Afghanistan - specifically helicopters, 3,500 police trainers and three battalions of ground troops.
Canada currently has some 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, deployed mainly in the Kandahar area in the south.
Like Washington, Ottawa has been calling on other NATO countries to do more, including committing troops to the volatile south where the insurgents are strongest.