Sunday, December 17, 2006

good on france

France to pull elite troops from Afghanistan
Sunday, December 17, 2006
www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/12/17/afghanistan-france.html

France will withdraw its 200 special forces troops from Afghanistan within weeks, authorities announced Sunday. ... During the past year, Afghan, Canadian, U.S., British and Dutch forces have done most of the fighting and borne most of the casualties as the insurgency intensified.

France will withdraw its 200 special forces troops from Afghanistan within weeks, authorities announced Sunday.

The elite soldiers have been serving under U.S. forces in the southeast, battling Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

The rest of France's contribution in Afghanistan — about 1,100 troops — have been under NATO leadership and stationed in the relatively safe capital, Kabul. French authorities have resisted repeated calls from NATO leaders and individual countries in the coalition, including Canada, for the troops to be deployed in more volatile areas.

News of the withdrawal came amid growing militant strength despite the efforts of NATO's 32,800-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

France said the decision to pull the special forces troops, based in the southeastern city of Jalalabad, didn't indicate a weakening of its support for the mission in Afghanistan.

"There is a general reorganization of our [troops]," Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said during a visit to Afghanistan, in comments that aired on France-Info radio.

Among planned changes is a "withdrawal of special forces from Jalalabad in the coming weeks," she said.

Alliot-Marie said France would continue to supply air support and would add two helicopters near Jalalabad.

Capt. S├ębastien Caron, a Paris-based spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the country's NATO contingent would remain in Afghanistan.

France is among the countries in ISAF that have faced heavy pressure to boost their contribution in Afghanistan in recent months, including from Canada, the United States and top NATO leaders.

France and some other countries have been accused of putting too many restrictions on their troops, including refusing to let them serve in places where most of the militant attacks are taking place.

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