French Defence Minister says no new troops in Afghanistan

December 19th, 2008 - 5:31 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaParis, Dec 19 (DPA) French Defence Minister Herve Morin Thursday denied a media report that Paris was preparing to deploy reinforcements to Afghanistan to comply with the wishes of US president-elect Barack Obama to carry out a military “surge” there.Morin told journalists in Paris that no plan to reinforce French forces in Afghanistan was being prepared. However, he left open the possibility that President Nicolas Sarkozy may himself announce such a move.

“If the President has things to announce, he will announce them. I don’t know of anything,” Morin said.

He was reacting to a story in the online edition of the daily Liberation, according to which the new deployment would likely consist of several hundred soldiers and would eventually form part of a “French brigade” on Afghan territory.

The creation of this brigade would correspond to the transfer of responsibility for security in the capital Kabul and its region to Afghan forces, freeing the French troops currently stationed there to be deployed elsewhere in the country, the daily reported.

Some 2,800 French soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan to help fight the insurrection by the extremist Taliban rebels. They form about 5 percent of the Western troops stationed in the country.

With France scheduled to be fully integrated in NATO by April 2009, the French government will be obliged to take on more responsibility in alliance missions, such as the one in Afghanistan, Liberation said.

The report comes several days after a mysterious group calling itself the Revolutionary Front for Afghanistan planted five sticks of dynamite in a Paris department store and demanded the withdrawal of all French troops from the country.

In reaction to that incident, Morin had said Wednesday that France had no intention of increasing its forces in Afghanistan.

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