French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that France will withdraw 1,000 troops from its mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2012. The president made the announcement during a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Sarkozy said the troops would leave by the end of 2012
France will withdraw a quarter of its troops, a total of around 1,000 soldiers, from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced during an unannounced five-hour visit to the country on Tuesday.
Sarkozy met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and top US General David Petraeus. He also visited French troops at a base in the district of Sarobi, north of the capital Kabul.
"It's necessary to end the war," he told journalists at a base. "There was never a question of keeping troops in Afghanistan indefinitely."
He said France's remaining soldiers would be concentrated in Kapisa province.
The French leader announced last month that "hundreds" of French troops would leave "by the end of the year, early next year" following the United States' announcement of a limited pullout.
The US, which has the largest contingent of foreign forces in Afghanistan, has announced that all 33,000 "surge" troops will leave by the end of next summer.
French soldiers have been involved in the US and NATO-led Afghanistan operation since 2001 and France has lost 64 soldiers from its 4,000-strong contingent. On Monday, a soldier was killed by an accidental shot from his own camp in Kapisa.
The early pullout could give Sarkozy a boost ahead of the April 2012 presidential election, where he faces a tough battle from the leftwing opposition to win a second term.
An opinion poll after the US killing of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May showed more than half of French people support a withdrawal.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson
The euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party has seen a spate of attacks against its branches across the country. The violence comes after controversial statements about refugees from party leader Frauke Petry.
People are leaving Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan en masse. The reasons range from the rise of the "Islamic State" to issues as relatively mundane as the economy. Birgit Svensson reports from Irbil.
Discussion about the human plight of international conflicts was dominated by calls to consider military intervention as a last resort in places such as Syria. Sunday was the final day of the Munich Security Conference.
Scooter have a new album out. PopXport catches up with the eurodance veterans at a performance in Finland. Plus, we look back at Vesperia at the Wacken Metal Battle and bum around Berlin with rapper Prinz Pi.