Following the decision by US President Barack Obama to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, his counterpart in France has decided to take a similar undertaking.
Nicolas Sarkozy said he will commence a gradual pullback of about 4,000 French soldiers presently serving in Afghanistan. Sarkozy reportedly conferred with Obama over the phone before he made the announcement in Paris.
Given the progress we have seen [in Afghanistan], France will begin a gradual withdrawal of reinforcement troops sent to Afghanistan, in a proportional manner and in a calendar comparable to the withdrawal of American reinforcements, Sarkozy's office said in a statement.
Sixty-two French soldiers have died while on duty in Afghanistan.
Sarkozy also stressed that France shared the American analysis and objectives and that it was happy with President Obama's decision.
However, Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said specific details of the withdrawal would not be made public in order to prevent Afghan Taliban insurgents from getting too much information,
[The troop withdrawal] will be significant for 2011 and, like the Americans, we will see this materialize in 2012, he told France Info radio.
The move by Sarkozy might also boost his flagging popularity ahead of France’s presidential elections next year.
French military analyst Jean-Dominique Merchet wrote in a blog: Sarkozy could present himself while announcing a withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Socialist opposition would be hard placed to criticize him on that as it has pushed for a coordinated withdrawal with the United States.”
Meanwhile, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, embraced the move by the western powers, but the Taliban derided it as merely symbolic and said it will keep fighting until all foreign soldiers have left the nation.