28 Jan 2012

France speeds up troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

4:31 pm on 28 January 2012

France is speeding up the withdrawal of its 3500 troops from Afghanistan.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says they will be home by the end of 2013 - a year earlier than the deadline set for the withdrawal of all NATO-led forces.

But Mr Sarkozy also announced the resumption of French military training in Afghanistan - suspended a week ago after four French soldiers were killed by a member of the Afghan army.

France has 3600 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 130,000-strong NATO-led force.

French troops mainly patrol Kapisa, a mountainous province near Kabul.

Speaking after talks with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in Paris, Mr Sarkozy said France would only have a training-and-support role once Kapisa is handed over.

In Washington, the State Department gave a measured response to Mr Sarkozy's decision, which it said had been thoroughly discussed both with NATO and with the Afghan government.