France starts Afghan troop pullout
KABUL (PAN): In line with a drawdown plan announced by President Sarkozy in July, France on Wednesday started pulling out its troops from Afghanistan, where it has lost 75 soldiers over the past 10 years.
In Paris, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said in a radio interview on Wednesday that the first 200 French soldiers, stationed in the Sarobi district of Kabul province, would leave Afghanistan later in the day.
The International Security Assistance Force press office in Kabul confirmed the withdrawal, but declined to offer details. It said French authorities were in a position to map out the details.
Around 1,000 French troops would be withdrawn by the end of the current year, with Afghan soldiers taking their positions, he said, indicating the process would be completed with the departure of the 4,500 French servicemembers in more than three years.
"We are carrying out a proportional withdrawal. The zones that we are in charge of will be handed over to the Afghan army," Longuet told France Inter radio.
The beginning of the French pullout follows the US military drawdown. This last summer, 17 French soldiers were killed, taking their total military fatalities to 75 since 2001.
The UK, Canada and Belgium have also announced pullout plans. Some American and Canadian troops have already returned home. The US plans to withdraw 33,000 soldiers by the end of 2012.
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