Hollande defends French exit in Afghanistan

President Francois Hollande on Friday defended France's imminent exit from Afghanistan, saying 2,000 combat troops will leave in a coordinated withdrawal this year but vowing not to abandon the country.

Hollande met French soldiers deployed in the volatile province of Kapisa and held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his first visit to the country where French troops have been fighting the Taliban since late 2001.

He explained his decision to recall French combat troops by the end of 2012, a year earlier than Paris initially planned, and two years before NATO allies.

"It's a sovereign decision. Only France can decide what France does," he told soldiers at Nijrab Base in eastern province Kapisa, where most of France's 3,550 troops in the country are based.

"It will be conducted in good understanding with our allies, especially President (Barack) Obama, who understands the reasons, and in close consultation with Afghan authorities," Hollande said.

Kapisa, which commands part of the access to Kabul from Taliban flashpoints on the Pakistani border, has proved a tough fight for the French, troubled by turf wars between the Islamist insurgents and drug dealers.

Hollande said the threat posed by terrorists in Afghanistan had not been eradicated but had been "partially curbed" since the 2001 invasion toppled the Taliban regime for sheltering Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.

In a news conference with Karzai, he said France wanted to help Afghans become self-sufficient, by focusing on education, culture and even archaeology.

He also mentioned economic "prospects" in housing, renewable energy, oil exploration and agriculture, but stopped short of providing any details.

Paris has so far reserved judgement on contributing to the cost of the Afghan security budget, estimated at $4.1 billion a year from 2015.

"We want France to stay in Afghanistan in a different guise than in the past," he said, adding that the counter-terror mission "was on the point of completion", which should be a matter of "great pride".

By the end of the year, there would be no more French combat troops in Afghanistan, he said. "We will repatriate 2,000 people. At the beginning of 2013, the only personnel will be in charge of repatriating our equipment."

Hollande later met members of the local French community at the French embassy before leaving Afghanistan after a visit of some eight hours.

France, which has lost 83 soldiers in Afghanistan, provides the fifth largest contingent to NATO's 130,000-strong US-led force. Allies have downplayed the effect of their early departure, saying Afghan troops are ready to take over.

The relatively quiet Kabul district of Surobi, where French troops are also based, was handed over to local control in April.

Kapisa has been included in the third of a five-phase transfer, which Afghan officials say could take as little as six months, but which NATO's International Security Assistance Force has timetabled at 12-18 months.

Analysts have expressed concern about NATO's withdrawal, pointing out that Afghan forces have a mixed record at best and questioning whether a security vacuum will only heighten violence if not hasten a return to civil war.

"Clearly there is a rush for the exits by Western leaders, but there is no Plan B to address worsening battlefield conditions and political crises if they occur," wrote veteran Afghan watcher, Ahmed Rashid, in The New York Review of Books.

Separate bomb attacks on the day of Hollande's visit killed five people and wounded at least 11 others in the south, officials said.

More Afghan civilians died in 2011 than the total number of NATO troops, 3,009, killed since 2001. And last year's 3,021 civilian deaths marked the fifth straight year that the toll has risen, according to UN figures.

The number of internal refugees last year hit nearly half a million, the highest for about a decade, part of what Amnesty International has called "a largely hidden but horrific humanitarian and human rights crisis".

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.

  • Developers prepare for new rules and regulations
    Developers prepare for new rules and regulations

    Known as the "Subdivision and Condominium Buyers' Protective Decree," Presidential Decree No. 957 issued two sets of revised implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) earlier in 2015. A bill initiated by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1976, the decree and its most recent amendments were designed to "protect buyers from fraudulent and unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers, operators and developers," according to the explanatory note that accompanied the bill in its senate …

  • ‘Get SAF 44 killers before BBL passage’
    ‘Get SAF 44 killers before BBL passage’

    Lawmakers are demanding the arrest of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters involved in the killing of 44 policemen in Mamasapano before the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress. Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member ad hoc committee in the House of Representatives deliberating on the BBL, prodded the Department of Justice (DOJ) to speed up its investigation and file charges against the MILF guerrillas as the Aquino administration …

  • Pinoys dance for Earth Hour
    Pinoys dance for Earth Hour

    The Philippines once again displayed its support Saturday night for the worldwide observance of Earth Hour by hosting a dance party after turning the lights off from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. to save energy and make a statement on various environmental issues. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said widespread participation proved anew that no individual action on climate change is too small and that no collective vision is too big with celebrations in over 7,000 hubs in 170 countries. The WWF said …

  • Phl offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China
    Phl offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China

    The Philippines has offered to downgrade its claim on Sabah in exchange for Malaysia’s support for its case against China before the United Nations. The quid pro quo was contained in a note verbale the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) handed to a representative of the Malaysian embassy last week, a week after the visit of Malaysian Defense Minister Dato  Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. The note verbale, a copy of which was obtained by VERA Files, referred to the May 6, 2009 joint submission …

  • Maysak to enter Phl Wednesday
    Maysak to enter Phl Wednesday

    A typhoon with international name Maysak is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) on Wednesday and bring rains over Northern Luzon by weekend, the state weather bureau said yesterday. Aldczar Aurelio, weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said the typhoon was 2,810 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 10 a.m. yesterday. “This typhoon is still too far to affect any part of the country,” the weather …

  • Nonviolent disciplining of kids pushed

    Child rights advocates called on senators to pass and strongly endorse a law that will institutionalize positive and nonviolent methods of disciplining children.The Child Rights Network (CRN), Plan International Philippines (PIP), Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPCD), and Lihok Pilipinas Foundation led the call for the enactment of the Positive Discipline Bill.Several Quezon City Council members led by Majority Floor Leader Jesus Manuel Suntay, Victor Ferrer …

  • Method to their madness

    [caption id="attachment_256768" align="alignright" width="212"] Illustration by Rod Cañalita[/caption] EMMANUEL PORTUGAL Country Manager for the Philippines, VMware I look after the garden. I’d like to think that I have a green thumb—no plants have died so far! The ones I like now that I planted a few months ago is the Blue Iris. Like the town in the movie, my Blue Iris shows up in the morning and only appears for one day. …

  • JGFP Summer Tour on today

    The summer tour for local junior golfers kicks off with the holding of the ICTSI-JGFP Baguio Junior Open today and tomorrow at the treacherous Baguio Country Club course in Baguio.Sixty players aged 6 to 17 years old are entered in the 36-hole tourney serving as the opening leg of the summer circuit organized by the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines with the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. Foundation as main sponsor. ... …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options