France pulling out of Afghanistan

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has announced that France would withdraw hundreds of its special forces from Afghanistan within the next few weeks.

"We’ll pull our special forces out of Afghanistan in the coming weeks," Alliot-Marie told reporters during her visit to the Afghan capital Kabul.

She was referring to some 200 French special forces stationed in eastern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, aimed at hunting down Taliban fighters in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

France has deployed a total of 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the remainder serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Seven members of the French special forces have been killed in action in the war-ravaged country, while 12 others have been wounded since their deployment.

ISAF which took command from the US-led troops last month has more than 30,000 troops while 10,000 US-led coalition troops are on the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants.

The French special forces contingent is currently based in eastern Nangarhar province.

Despite being ousted from power, remnants of Taliban and other Islamist allies including those from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network are still waging a bloody insurgency in parts of the country.

Nearly 4,000 people, many of them rebels, have died this year in the insurgency, which has entered its bloodiest phase since the toppling of the Taliban. The regime was ousted following the World Trade Center attacks for failing to hand over bin Laden to US authorities.

The proposed French withdrawal comes when ISAF commanders facing an unexpected Taliban resistance have been demanding more troops to be deployed in the south of Afghanistan where Taliban are most active.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse