Paris: France is to withdraw around 200
troops from its 4,000-strong force fighting as part of the
NATO coalition in Afghanistan before the end of next month,
the military said on Thursday.
"France will pull out the equivalent of a combat company
and its support elements," Colonel Thierry Burkhard, spokesman
for the French military staff, told reporters in Paris,
confirming part of a previously announced plan.
Burkhard said a second detachment would leave before the
end of the year, and that France remained on course to
withdraw around a quarter of its force by the end of 2012, as
President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised.
The rest of the force is due to leave by 2014, by which
time they hope to have transferred responsibility for leading
the fight against Taliban rebels in the highlands east of
Kabul to Afghan government forces.
Since 2001, when a US-led coalition deployed to
Afghanistan to help local forces overthrow the Taliban regime
and to pursue the al Qaeda network, 75 French soldiers have
French casualties have been increasingly frequent this
year as the formerly relatively peaceful Kapisa region, which
the French forces control, has been gripped by a more
aggressive and confident insurgency.