France ends combat role in Afghanistan

The move is one more step forward for French President François Hollande to fulfill his campaign promise to remove French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.

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Hollande later clarified his pledge after concerns arose from the United States and NATO, and he said that he would withdraw all “combatant troops,” but leave behind trainers.

France had about 3,400 military personnel in Afghanistan in May, and the country plans to have about 1,500 there next year to both repatriate equipment and act in a training role, according to the AP.

NATO does not plan to hand off control of security to the Afghans until the end of 2014.

France’s move to end its combat mission two years ahead of NATO reflects the unpopularity of the war there. Even before Hollande was elected, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to withdraw French troops early after an “insider attack” killed four French soldiers in January.