200 French troops called back from Afghanistan


France is to withdraw around 200 troops from its 4,000-strong force fighting as part of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan before the end of next month, the military said Thursday. “France will pull out the equivalent of a combat company and its support elements,” Colonel Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French military staff, told reporters in Paris, confirming part of a previously announced plan.
Burkhard said a second detachment would leave before the end of the year, and that France remained on course to withdraw around a quarter of its force by the end of 2012, as President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised. The rest of the force is due to leave by 2014, by which time they hope to have transferred responsibility for leading the fight against Taliban rebels in the highlands east of Kabul to Afghan government forces.
Since 2001, when a US-led coalition deployed to Afghanistan to help local forces overthrow the Taliban regime and to pursue the Al-Qaeda network, 75 French soldiers have been killed. French casualties have been increasingly frequent this year as the formerly relatively peaceful Kapisa region, which the French forces control, has been gripped by a more aggressive and confident insurgency.