Sarkozy heads to Afghanistan to see French troops: source

12th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was en route Tuesday to Afghanistan's Kapisa region to visit French troops, a source at the Elysee told AFP.

It will be his third visit to the battle-scarred country since he became president. His earlier trips took place in December 2007 and in August 2008 after 10 French troops were killed in fighting with the Taliban.

After arriving in Kabul, Sarkozy was due to leave immediately for the French military base in Tagab in Kapisa province northeast of the capital.

His visit comes a day after a 22-year-old French soldier was killed in "accidental fire" by another French trooper.

In June, Sarkozy said "several hundred" French troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan before the end of 2011.

"Between now and the end of the year, early next year, several hundred French soldiers will return to France in full agreement with the decision taken by the American president," Sarkozy said at a European Union summit.

His office had earlier said France would carry out a progressive pullback of its 4,000 troops "in a proportional manner and in a timeframe similar to the pullback of the American reinforcements."

US President Barack Obama recently ordered all 33,000 US surge troops home from Afghanistan by next summer and declared the beginning of the end of the war, saying the withdrawal would begin this July.

Sarkozy said he shared Obama's belief that security had improved since the death of Osama bin Laden and that the handover to Afghan troops and police was proceeding smoothly.

Should the situation improve, the pullout of all Western combat troops in 2014 might be "brought forward", he said.

© 2011 AFP

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