Hollande said that France's troops have carried out their mission in Afghanistan and it is time for them to leave, an early pull-out that will be coordinated with the US and other allies. "There will be no combat troops" after the end of the year, Hollande said during a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The French President, who assumed office earlier this month, flew to Afghanistan to meet the troops and to discuss plans with Karzai to withdraw French combat troops more than a year earlier than scheduled. His visit was not announced ahead of time for security reasons, and he was expected to depart shortly after the news conference. Hollande said that France will withdraw its 2,000 combat troops, out of a total of 3,300, by 2012 end. Some would stay behind to help send military equipment back to France while and others would help train the Afghan army and police, he said. Hollande, however, did not provide a breakdown for the roles of the 1,300 soldiers who will remain past 2012 or how long they would stay.
The president said that continued cooperation was discussed over lunch with Karzai "because there will continue to be trainers who will work with (Afghan) soldiers and police." He said French equipment would be taken out by ground routes, but did not say which ones. It can be mentioned here that Pakistan closed overland supply routes to Afghanistan for NATO after a US attack on the Pakistani side of the border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. The decision has forced NATO to use a far more costly route running through the north.