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FM: France to raise its troops in Afghanistan to about 3,000
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14:19, April 12, 2008

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France is to increase its troops operating in Afghanistan to about 3,000, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday, according to news reports from Dushanbe, the Tajik capital.

"I don't have the exact figure, which is known to the military (but) there will be about 3,000," Kouchner said through an interpreter at a press conference in Dushanbe.

Before the press conference, Kouchner inspected French troops stationed in a base near the Tajik capital. The troops have been deployed there since late 2001, from where they carry out operations in Afghanistan.

While saying that the operations in Afghanistan were "putting the lives of our soldiers at risk", Kouchner insisted that France would fight alongside Afghanistan "against the extremists."

Some 1,600 French troops are serving in Afghanistan, mostly in the capital Kabul and the surrounding area, as part of a NATO mission to fight the Taliban.

At a NATO summit in Bucharest last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to send 700 more French troops to eastern Afghanistan.

Officials in Paris said the figure Kouchner gave on Friday must have accidentally included troops stationed nearby rather than in Afghanistan.

Kouchner will visit Afghanistan over the weekend and meet President Hamid Karzai and his Afghan counterpart Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, French diplomats said. He will also meet with non-governmental organizations and visit a hospital in Kabul.

He will then go to Kandahar, in the south of the country, where France has stationed fighter jets to provide aerial support for its allies' ground forces.

France will host an international conference on June 12 aimed at raising funds for Afghanistan.

Last week U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed France's extra contribution to the 47,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan, saying it would allow some U.S. troops to move from the east to the south to support Canadian troops who are fighting fiercely against the Taliban.

Canada has threatened to withdraw its 2,500 troops from Afghanistan if it doesn't get reinforcements.


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