France to withdraw troops from Afghanistan faster than expected

France to withdraw troops from Afghanistan faster than expected

France may pull out its combat troops from Afghanistan faster than expected, France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said late on Saturday.

"We have said by the end of December [2012] but I think that it can happen a bit earlier," Fabius said in an interview with French television BFM about the troop withdrawal while visiting Kabul, RIA Novosti reported.

France joined the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan in late 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States to fight the radical militant group Taliban, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network.

There are currently about 2,500 French troops in the Afghan provinces of Kabul and Kapisa compared with 4,000-strong personnel a year ago. France has lost 88 soldiers since deploying troops in Afghanistan.

"The troops cannot stay forever in Afghanistan. This is not possible for a country to ensure its security from outside. The Afghans must take over," Fabius said.

During his election campaign, French President Francois Hollande, who was elected in May, pledged to speed up France's withdrawal from Afghanistan and complete it by the end of 2012 or a year earlier than initially planned.

Some French personnel will remain in the country, mainly responsible for withdrawing equipment and the training of the Afghan army, he said.

France will have to pull out 14 combat helicopters, over 900 combat vehicles and about 1,500 containers with ammunition from the war-torn country.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is scheduled to pull out the majority of its 130,000 forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

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