Company policy requires some ssh keys to be stored securely, e.g. on dedicated USB device. Using keys not stored on the host machine works flawlessly using gnupg with enable-ssh-support, even when multiple keys are used:

Host example.com
    HostName ssh.example.com
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/smartcard.pub
Host example.net
    HostName git.example.net
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/another-smartcard.pub
Host example.org
    HostName sftp.example.org
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub

IdentitiesOnly yes
PasswordAuthentication no
PubkeyAuthentication yes

However, when the hardware is unplugged, gpg removes the key from the agent and subsequent ssh calls result in:

Enter passphrase for key '/home/user/.ssh/smartcard.pub':

This seems odd, as both ssh and ssh-agent should be well aware that that file contains a public key only. Is there a good way of making ssh fail verbosely if it has no way of accessing the specified key, instead of asking for a (pointless) passphrase?

Incomplete solutions:

  1. remove IdentitiesOnly - ssh will then try all usable keys as expected - but leads to trouble with servers limiting authentication attempts per session
  2. wrap ssh in some way alias ssh='grep ^4096 <(ssh-add -l)' && ssh' - works, but will cause headache in case someone ever wants to find out why his ssh setup is broken

Use OpenSSH 7.9 or later, it will at least print some error:

$ ssh example.com
Load key "/home/user/.ssh/smartcard.pub": invalid format
user@example.com: Permission denied (publickey).

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