Paris, Kabul agree on faster exit in Afghanistan
PARIS / LONDONFrance and Afghanistan agree NATO should speed up by a year its timetable for handing all combat operations to Afghan forces in 2013, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Jan. 27, raising new questions about the unity of the Western military alliance.
Sarkozy also announced a faster-track exit for France, the fourth-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan, marking a distinct break from previous plans to adhere to the U.S. goal of withdrawing combat forces by the end of 2014. The proposal comes a week after four unarmed French troops were killed by an Afghan soldier described as a Taliban infiltrator.
Sarkozy, alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai who was in Paris for a previously planned visit, said France had told the U.S. of its plan, and will present it at a Feb. 2-3 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. “We have decided in a common accord with President Karzai to ask NATO to consider a total handing of NATO combat missions to the Afghan army over the course of 2013,” Sarkozy told reporters.
Warning from Cameron
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said foreign troops must carefully phase their withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of an end-2014 deadline. “I don’t want to see some sort of cliff edge in 2014 when all of the remaining troops come out at once,” Cameron said during talks in London with Karzai. “But clearly, between now and 2014, the rate at which we can reduce our troops will depend on the transition to Afghan control in the different parts of Afghanistan...” Cameron said.