French troops end combat mission in Afghanistan
By Sadaf Shinwari - Tue Nov 20 2012, 11:46 am
French troops deployed under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force ended their last combat mission in Afghanistan by withdrawing from Kapisa province as part of an accelerated departure from the war-torn country.
The departure of the last 400 troops took place around 10 am following a ceremony in Nijrab district of eastern Kapisa province.
A French military official quoted by AFP said Of the 2,200 French soldiers still left in Afghanistan about 700 would return to France by the end of the year.
Around 50 trainers will remain based in Wardak province, west of Kabul, and 1,500 would stay in the Afghan capital, where most will be tasked with organising the final departure of French troops by the summer of 2013.
After that date, only several hundred French soldiers involved in cooperation or training missions will remain in the country, the military official said.
This comes as French President Francois Hollande met with US President Barack Obama in Washington earlier this year and announced that he would withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, as originally scheduled.
Hollande’s pledge to withdraw 3,500 French troops from Afghanistan was one of his key campaign promises and is thought to have helped him defeat Nicolas Sarkozy in the May 6 presidential election.
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 has lost over 88 soldiers in Afghanistan and has been the fifth largest contributor to ISAF, behind the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.