Sarkozy says French troops to leave Afghanistan one year early
President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced the early withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan a week after the killing of four French soldiers by a renegade Afghan soldier.
The announcement, which follows a meeting between the French president and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, means the return of all combat forces by the end of 2013 instead of 2014. Sarkozy added that 1,000 troops would return in 2012.
There are some 3,600 French forces currently in Afghanistan’s eastern Kapisa province.
Sarkozy said the decision was made “in agreement with President Karzai and in agreement with our allies, in an organised and reasonable way”.
US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland said the French announcement was part of the “managed effort” to withdraw from Afghanistan and had been worked through with Nato and the Afghans.
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he understood the French concerns but noted that Nato nations had agreed on a 2014 date to withdraw combat forces and transfer security to Afghan forces.
Karzai is on a five-day European trip to sign long-term strategic partnership agreements aimed at bolstering support for Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.
He was next to travel to London to meet Prime Minister David Cameron.
According to an opinion poll published this week, 84 per cent of French people want their troops back home by the end of 2012.
Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, tipped to beat Sarkozy in elections in three months, pledged Thursday to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan this year if he becomes president.
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.