French Afghan troops to leave Kapisa in March

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 27, 2012 1:24 PM
French Afghan troops to leave Kapisa in March

PARIS (Reuters) - French troops will start handing over security to the Afghan army in March and focus on training until pulling out of Afghanistan completely at the end of 2013, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday.

Sarkozy said French troops would resume training on Saturday after receiving security guarantees from Afghan President Hamid Karzai who was in Paris on a visit.

He added France would send NATO a plan next month proposing the handover of all foreign combat operations in Afghanistan next year.

"President Karzai has assured us that Kapisa province, where the French contingent is based, will pass under Afghan responsibility from March," Sarkozy said after talks with the Afghan leader.

Sarkozy said the withdrawal from Kapisa would enable France to bring back an extra 1,000 of its 3,600 troops this year.

"In 2011, 400 French soldiers came home. In 2012, 1,000 more will return," Sarkozy told reporters.

After commitments to improve security on the ground, French troops would resume training duties suspended last week after four of their soldiers were killed by a rogue Afghan soldier.

NATO troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Sarkozy said a few hundred French military trainers would stay on beyond 2013 as part of a cooperation agreement with Kabul.

(Reporting By John Irish Editing by Maria Golovnina)