France rules out troop reduction in Afghanistan

8th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

KABUL, Dec 8 (AFP) - NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will not scale back their presence before parliamentary elections in the war-torn country next spring, French junior foreign minister Renaud Muselier said Wednesday.

KABUL, Dec 8 (AFP) - NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will not scale back their presence before parliamentary elections in the war-torn country next spring, French junior foreign minister Renaud Muselier said Wednesday.

"It's out of the question to reduce forces considering the challenge ahead," Muselier told a press conference after travelling to Kabul for President Hamid Karzai's inauguration Tuesday.

"Of course it is necessary to mobilise for the upcoming parliamentary and local elections, which will mark the achievement of the transitional process."

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force received reinforcements of around 3,000 troops for the October 9 presidential election, about half of whom are still in country.

Almost 8,400 soldiers are now deployed under the force's command in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile a US-led military coalition of over 18,000 troops including French special forces is battling Taliban-led militants in the south and southeast of Afghanistan.

Muselier said it was "definitely essential" for Afghanistan to fight against the production, processing and trafficking of drugs.

"It is a move that should be undertaken by the Afghan government and the international community," he added.

Afghanistan is now the source of 90 percent of the heroin on Europe's streets and produces 87 percent of the world's opium, seeing a 64 percent leap in cultivation over the last year, according to a recent UN report.

"The fight for security is on course but today the biggest danger for stability is drugs," said Muselier.

Afghanistan's first presidential election in October was held successfully without long-feared violence despite threats by the ousted Taliban regime to disrupt the vote.

However, with a burgeoning drug trade lining the pockets of local militia leaders, there are fears that next year's parliamentary elections could be more violent.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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