(AFP) – Oct 20, 2012
PARIS — The withdrawal of French combat troops from Afghanistan will happen "a bit more quickly than anticipated" and could be completed before the end of December, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Saturday.
Fabius was interviewed by French television BFM about the troop withdrawal while on a visit to Kabul.
"We can say that it is going well and I think even that it will happen a bit more quickly than anticipated," he said.
"We have said by the end of December (2012) but I think that it can happen a bit earlier," Fabius said.
The top French diplomat added that "some men will still remain" in the country, responsible mainly for repatriating equipment and the training of the Afghan army.
"But there will be no more combat troops," he stressed.
France joined the NATO coalition in late 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the United States to topple the Taliban which had given refuge to Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network.
France is the fifth largest contributor to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is due to pull out the vast majority of its 130,000 forces by the end of 2014.
Before his election in May, French President Francois Hollande vowed to speed up France's pullout so it would be completed by the end of 2012 -- a year earlier than Paris initially planned and two years before the NATO deadline.
There are currently around 2,550 French troops in Afghanistan compared with 4,000 a year ago.
France has lost 88 soldiers since first deploying to the war-torn country.
"The troops cannot stay forever in Afghanistan. It is not possible for a country to ensure its security from outside. The Afghans must take over," Fabius said
On his visit, Fabius met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Lieutenant General Olivier de Bavinchove, head of the NATO-led force ISAF in Afghanistan.
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