It might be a bit of election year politics or it might be what the Afghans want. Or both. Regardless of what is behind the decision, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that French troops will be out of Afghanistan in less than two years. The New York Times examines his plan.
He increased this year’s withdrawal of troops from 600 to 1,000, and said that French troops would hand over security responsibility in one of its main areas of responsibility in Afghanistan, Kapisa Province, northeast of Kabul, beginning in March, and that he would press for NATO to accelerate its handover of primary security responsibilities as well.
Reuters acknowledges that Mr. Sarkozy is looking for a domestic political boost from the troop reduction and pullout.Mr. Sarkozy’s announcements, including a statement that the level of Taliban infiltration in the Afghan Army “has been underestimated, ” came after a meeting here with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.
Sarkozy's 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.
In a CSA survey published on Thursday, 84 per cent of people said they were in favour of troops leaving by the end of 2012.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has ruled out a "hasty" retreat and most analysts believe it will technically be difficult for Paris to drop out of the NATO-led coalition so quickly.In a separate story, Reuters examines how Mr. Hollande is showing no signs of cracking as he continues to lead in the polls.
"Announcing a French withdrawal could set off panic among other European countries in Afghanistan," said military analyst Jean-Dominique Merchet.