France is to pull its 3,600 troops out of Afghanistan at the end of next year. President Nicolas Sarkozy made the announcement during a visit to Paris by his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai.
He also revealed that French troops would resume the training mission on Saturday: “The operation started ten years by Jospin and Chirac naturally has a fixed term. And this term isn’t fixed by the Taliban. It’s fixed by the conviction we all have, President Karzai included, that a country of 30-million inhabitants must be able to assure its own security and can not accept foreign military bases on its territory,” he said.
Sarkozy suspended training and support operations on the ground last week after four French troops were killed by a rogue Afghan soldier.
The withdrawal effectively brings an end to Paris’ frontline military operations, a decision that could prove a boost to Sarkozy ahead of the presidential election.
His Socialist rival Francois Hollande, who is comfortably ahead in the polls, has pledged to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of this year if he wins the election held in two rounds in April and May.