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French President Hollande in Afghanistan on troop visit

Published: May 25, 2012 | 6:55 am
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French President Francois Hollande has arrived in Afghanistan on a previously unannounced visit.

Mr Hollande, who took office earlier this month, flew into Kabul and is expected to spend only a few hours in Afghanistan, visiting French soldiers.

He is also expected to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Mr Hollande wants to withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, a year earlier than the deadline set by Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Hollande is said to want to “explain himself” to French soldiers, and make the reasons for the decision clear to them.

Mr Hollande described the early withdrawal as a “sovereign decision”, and added that it would be “conducted in good understanding with our allies, especially President Obama – who understands the reasons – and in close consultation with Afghan authorities”.

There are currently 3,350 French soldiers serving in Afghanistan – the fifth largest contributor to the Nato force.

Eighty-three have been killed during the deployment, which began in 2001.

It is thought around a thousand French soldiers will remain in Afghanistan after the combat troops leave.

Their mission will be to help train the Afghan National Army.

bbc

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