France won't boost Afghan forces in 2011: Juppe
France does not intend to send additional forces to Afghanistan in 2011 but will redeploy some of its troops from areas to be turned over to Afghan security forces, French Defense Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday.
Juppe, who met US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington, told reporters that "we have a group of around 4,000 soldiers in the field and we do not intend to increase that."
He added, "This is already a considerable effort by France... because we have been in Afghanistan from the beginning" of the US-led effort against the Taliban that began in late 2001.
Asked how he would respond to a US request for more troops, Juppe said, "I stated clearly that we do not have that capacity."
Juppe was also set to meet with Senator John McCain, a Republican, who told AFP that "We're very grateful for the French participation" but would like to see more.
"We appreciate what the French have done, and obviously we'd love to have more help with trainers, and the gendarmes are doing a very good job with the police, but I can't tell the French what to do," McCain said.
Juppe said that French troops withdrawn from the area around Sarobi will be redeployed to Kapisa, as part of the move planned this year to start handing over security to Afghan forces along with a drawdown of the current level of US troops, now at 97,000.
"What we have said for France is that we are prepared to begin the transition process in 2011," Juppe said.
"We will withdraw when we feel Sarobi is secure, if Afghan authorities decide, and we will redeploy the the neighboring area where this is still work to be done in securing Kapisa."
© 2011 AFP