France to withdraw special forces from Afghanistan

18th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

KABUL, Dec 17, 2006 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie announced Sunday that France would withdraw hundreds of its special forces from Afghanistan within the next few weeks.

KABUL, Dec 17, 2006 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie announced Sunday that France would withdraw hundreds of its special forces from Afghanistan within the next few weeks.

"We'll pull our special forces out of Afghanistan in the coming weeks,"  Alliot-Marie told reporters during her visit to the Afghan capital Kabul.

She was referring to some 200 French special forces stationed in eastern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, aimed at hunting down Taliban fighters in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

France has deployed a total of 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the remainder serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Seven members of the French special forces have been killed in action in the war-ravaged country, while 12 others have been wounded since their deployment.

The French special forces contingent is currently based in eastern Nangarhar province.

The proposed French withdrawal comes when ISAF commanders facing unexpectedly strong Taliban resistance have been demanding more troops for the south of Afghanistan where the militants are most active.

The minister also announced that French instructors will be involved in the training of the Afghan army's special forces, "because we believe it is important that the Afghan army is able to enter battles with their own forces."

She reiterated that France had decided to keep its air force, "which has been involved in NATO operations on several occasions", in the country on a long-term basis, as well as deploying two new helicopters.

French troops will start training Afghan special forces in 2007, a spokesman for the French minister said.

Some 10 percent of France's special forces have been permanently based in Afghanistan, added the spokesman.

"The special forces have only been used sporadically, but without doubt when called upon by NATO they have made several contributions in Afghanistan," he added.

France heads the ISAF force in Kabul, contributing 1,100 of the 2,000 forces in the capital.

ISAF has more than 30,000 troops in the country while 10,000 US-led coalition troops are on the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants.

Despite being ousted from power, remnants of Taliban and other Islamist allies, including those from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, are still waging a bloody insurgency in parts of the country.

Nearly 4,000 people, many of them rebels, have died this year in the fighting.

The insurgency has entered its bloodiest phase since the toppling of the Taliban. The regime was ousted following the September 11 attacks for failing to hand over bin Laden to US authorities.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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