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France ends combat mission in Afghanistan

After 11 years of fighting alongside NATO forces in Afghanistan, France has ended its combat mission in the country. Some soldiers are scheduled to remain in Afghanistan into next year in noncombat rolls.

The final French combat troops stationed at a base near Kabul withdrew on Tuesday, marking the end of the country's battlefield engagement in the country.

The withdrawal comes earlier than originally planned under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had said this withdrawal would take place at the end of next year.

President Francois Hollande, who was elected earlier this year, made a combat troop withdrawal by the end of 2012 a part of his campaign.

France is the fifth largest contributor to NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, contributing just under 2,500 of the 104,000 total troops.

Tuesday's withdrawal also came earlier than the timeline for the withdrawal of the rest of the NATO troops, which is scheduled to take place in 2014.

The AFP news agency quoted a Taliban spokesman as calling on the other NATO coalition partners to follow France's lead.

"We urge the others to follow France and leave Afghanistan, end the occupation of Afghanistan and leave the fate of the country to Afghans themselves," Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP.

Some French soldiers are to remain in noncombat rolls through 2013 to help send equipment back home and to train Afghan troops to take over their own security.

mz/kms (dpa, AFP)