The attack took place in a village in Kapisa, the province where French troops were responsible for security until a handover to Afghan forces at the beginning of July.
Nevertheless, the two were among a detachment of 130 French troops giving back-up and advice to the Afghans, according to the French presidency.
The detachment came under fire from about 20 insurgents at about 6.00am during an operation to secure a bridge in the village of Tagab.
They were flown by helicopter to the international forces’ hospital at Kabul airport but one, chief adjutant Franck Bouzet, died from his wounds.
The other, army nurse Olivier de Vergnette de Lamotte, was “seriously wounded” but is now out of danger, officials say.
One Afghan soldier was also wounded and, according to officials, about 10 rebels were killed.
The presidential statement paid tribute to the two men and pledged that the withdrawal of French combat troops, which has already started, would be completed by the end of the year, “as planned”.
That would leave 1,400 French soldiers charged with bringing home equipment and training Afghan troops.
Nine-hundred of them will be brought home by the end of 2013 but 500 trainers will remain after that.
In other news from Afghanistan:
- Defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak abruptly resigned on Tuesday after parliament demanded his sacking but President Hamid Karzai kept him on in an acting capacity;
- Eight civilians were killed and about 15 people, including Nato soldiers, wounded in two separate attacks, one on a military baser near Kabul;
- The Netherlands’ ambassador to Estonia, Maurits Jochems, has been named Nato’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, replacing British ambassador Simon Gass.