France to send more troops to Afghanistan

April 3rd, 2008 - 7:04 am ICT by admin  

Bucharest, April 3 (DPA) France has pledged to send a “substantial” number of additional troops to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, a NATO spokesman said Wednesday at the end of the first day of the alliance’s summit in Bucharest. “The French government has offered a substantial military contribution to the operation in Afghanistan for the east of the country,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai told journalists.

The contribution to eastern Afghanistan of a battalion - which ranges from several hundred to more than 1,000 troops - would in turn free an equivalent number of US troops to move to the war-torn south of the country, Appathurai said.

Such redeployment would satisfy embattled Canada’s demand for heavy reinforcements in the combat zone, allowing it to stay in Afghanistan until 2011, he said. Leading up to the summit, Ottawa had threatened to pull out of NATO’s Afghanistan mission unless other countries provided support to its troops in the most dangerous areas.

NATO currently leads the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. However, alliance members are divided over the conduct of the mission.

Some states - notably the US, Canada, Britain and the Netherlands - have contributed most of the troops in the battle zone and have taken relatively heavy casualties in combat with insurgents.

Other states - notably Germany and, so far, France - have refused to deploy their forces to the most dangerous areas, saying that their task is to support state-building in other areas.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has now said that he wants to take France back into NATO’s military structure, a body it left in 1966. The offer of troops is seen as a possible first step to renewing France’s combat commitment to NATO.

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