France to Withdraw from Afghanistan a Year Earlier

31.01.2012 Europe
France to Withdraw from Afghanistan a Year Earlier

France to Withdraw from Afghanistan a Year Earlier

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President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that France would pull its forces out of Afghanistan a year earlier than planned, a week after the killing of four French servicemen by a renegade Afghan soldier.

After meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Paris, Sarkozy said France had decided to transfer security in the eastern Kapisa Province, where most of the 3,600-strong French contingent is based and the scene of the shooting, to Afghan Forces from March of this year.

“The pursuit of the transition and this gradual transfer of combat responsibilities will allow us to plan for a return of all our combat forces by the end of 2013,” Sarkozy said, adding that 1,000 troops would return in 2012.

“President Karzai has assured us that Kapisa Province where the French contingent is based will pass under Afghan responsibility from March,” he said.

This decision was made “in agreement with President Karzai and in agreement with our allies, in an organized and reasonable way,” Sarkozy added.

“A few hundred” French troops would stay on after 2013 to train Afghan troops, Sarkozy noted.

Sarkozy said he would encourage NATO to consider transferring all its combat operations to Afghan Forces in 2013, instead of the scheduled deadline of end-2014.

French training operations in Afghanistan, suspended after the shooting resumed on Saturday.

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he understood French concerns, but noted that NATO nations had agreed on a 2014 date to withdraw combat forces and transfer security to Afghans.

The United States, Britain, Germany and Italy are the main contributors to the NATO-led force of some 130,000 troops fighting a 10-year insurgency by hardline Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks.

More than 2,500 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001. The latest killings take the French toll to 82.

Source: Al Arabiya; Agencies; Photo: Reuters



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