France's decision to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year is "a part of NATO strategy", the alliance's secretary general has said. Before being elected earlier this month, France's new President Francois Hollande had pledged to remove the remainder of the country's 3,308 troops from the country one year earlier than the schedule agreed by predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
It had been reported that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and United States President Barack Obama, had sought to persuade Hollande to stick to Sarkozy's timetable, itself a year ahead of the main UK and US troop withdrawals, but those attempts appear to have failed.
Speaking on the BBC's
Andrew Marr show, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended Hollande's decision and said NATO strategy was not affected by the move. "It's clearly an election campaign pledge, and as a politician you should always keep your promises, but what I have also noted is that President Hollande has stated that he's prepared to support Afghanistan in a different way," Rasmussen said.
Asked what form that support may take, Rasmussen said he did not know."We are now in a process of handing over lead responsibility for security to the Afghans. That process will be completed by the end of 2014. During that process you will see withdrawals of troops, you will see a gradual change of the role of our troops from combat to support. It's not in contradiction with our strategy, it's actually a part of our strategy," he said.This article was first published by PublicServiceEurope.com's sister site defencemanagement.com France withdrawal 'part of NATO strategy'