Saturday, January 28, 2012

Afghanistan Signs Strategic Pact with France

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday met his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy and signed a strategic partnership agreement.

The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently said the strategic partnership with France will span 20 years and cover economic, security and political co-operation.

Saturday, 28 January 2012 10:26
Last Updated on Saturday, 28 January 2012 10:34
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France on Friday announced it will pull its combat forces out of Afghanistan one year ahead of the scheduled Nato withdrawal.

Mr Sarkozy said France had told the US of its plan and will present it at a February 2 meeting of Nato Defence Ministers in Brussels.

"We have decided in a common accord with President Karzai to ask Nato to consider a total handing of Nato combat missions to the Afghan army over the course of 2013," Mr Sarkozy said.

The US plans to withdraw the 33,000 "surge" troops sent to Afghanistan in 2010 by the end of the summer.

The military believes that the remaining 68,000 should stay until the end of the 2014 summer fighting season to maintain and expand what they say are gains against the Taliban.

Mr Sarkozy said France will withdraw combat troops by the end of 2013. He said France will start training Afghan troops again on Saturday.

France halted its training mission on January 20 after an Afghan National Army soldier shot and killed four French soldiers and wounded 17 others in eastern Kapisa province.

After the attack Mr Sarkozy immediately suspended the training and joint French military patrols with Afghan forces.

France has around 4,000 troops in Afghanistan; it lost 82 soldiers during the war.

Meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the timetable announced by France was worked through by both the Afghans and Nato as part of efforts to transfer security authority to Afghanistan.

"We, obviously, want to continue to work together to ensure that this is implemented in a way that is consistent with the efforts of all of Nato to give increasing authority to the Afghans, and that it is smooth," she said.

Nato said it had "taken note" of Mr Sarkozy's statement.

Nato first set the 2014 target 14 months ago and has scheduled a summit in Chicago in May to begin to flesh out withdrawal plans.

Mr Karzai said: "We hope to finish the transition, to complete this transition of authority to the Afghan forces, to the Afghan government, by the end of 2013 at the earliest or by the latest as has been agreed upon by the end of 2014."

Afghan security forces took over responsibility for providing security in seven areas in the first phrase of transition. The second phase of transition has started, with Afghan troops taking control of 18 new areas from foreign troops.

There are around 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan fighting insurgents; 90,000 of them are from the US.

To watch the whole speech, please click here:

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