Afghans 'can take over if French troops pull out'

The Afghan government said Monday its forces are ready to take responsibility for security in 2013, downplaying the risks if French president-elect Francois Hollande recalls 3,400 troops early.

Paris is the fifth largest contributor to the US-led NATO force battling Taliban insurgents in the country and Hollande made a campaign promise to withdraw the contingent this year.

The move would end his country's combat role two years earlier than NATO's carefully crafted plan to hand security control to Afghans by 2014.

"For us a NATO stance is more important than individual decisions by individual nations," Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.

"And Afghanistan is well prepared to take over all security responsibilities in 2013."

Last week Hollande said pulling out by the end of 2012 was the "right thing" to do, but he has insisted France would coordinate with NATO allies to avoid leaving a security vacuum when French troops leave unstable Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul.

A senior Afghan defence official doubted whether an early withdrawal was feasible, and said the pledge appeared to have been aimed at a French audience.

"From a military point of view I think it's not practical to withdraw troops within what's left of 2012," the official told AFP, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue.

"I think it was rather an election campaign promise than a practical decision. They won't withdraw this year."

Hollande, who won power on Sunday in a close race against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, will meet fellow NATO leaders at a summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in Chicago on May 20-21, just days after being sworn in.

NATO military officials said the alliance had already made contingency plans for Socialist candidate Hollande defeating right-winger Sarkozy.

Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said France was making a valuable contribution in Afghanistan and stressed its commitment to training local forces.

"They signed a long term agreement with Afghanistan, they made clear their commitment to train the Afghan forces. It's a very strong sign to the insurgency, the Taliban," he told AFP.

Nevertheless, a diplomat acknowledged that the new leader's stance "was not warmly welcomed" at alliance headquarters.

The early French pullout challenges NATO assurances that there would be no "rush to the exit", even though the war is unpopular in the West after a decade of fighting that has killed almost 3,000 foreign troops.

In Chicago, NATO wants to show a united front, repeating its "in together, out together" mantra as it fine-tunes the final phase of a mission that has yet to defeat the Taliban despite the presence of 130,000 international troops.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippine, Vietnamese troops play soccer and sing on disputed island

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island on Wednesday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Fall on renewed U.S. rate hike concerns

    BANGKOK, May 27 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets tumbled on Wednesday as investors resumed selling on expectations of an interest rate hike in the U.S. sooner rather than later, derailing Philippine ... …

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options