France ponders bigger military presence in Afghanistan

21:36, December 02, 2009      

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France on Wednesday retreated from its firm stand against sending more troops to Afghanistan and said it would now reconsider, following a renewed request from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama on Tuesday outlined his new strategy for resolving the protracted Afghan conflict, including the sending of 30,000 more U.S. troops, and called for NATO allies to also contribute extra manpower.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Obama's speech as "courageous, determined and lucid" and pledged "full support" to it in a statement Wednesday, but didn't make any immediate promises.

Without an utter rejection, Sarkozy insisted the issue of additional troops needed further discussion with Britain, Germany and other concerned European countries during a conference on Afghanistan on Jan. 28 in London.

Sarkozy would also take into consideration discussions on the Afghan issue slated for Thursday's meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, the statement said.

French media reported that Obama was seeking 1,500 extra French troops for Afghanistan, expanding the 3,750 already there.

In line with his former insistence on no more troops for Afghanistan, Sarkozy underlined the French priority would be given to training Afghan troops as answer to Obama.

However, French daily newspaper Le Monde said, "We are not saying no to Obama," adding that "there are many ways of helping: gendarmes, equipment, civilian work".

Recently, the French administration has repeatedly said France's essential mission was to train the Afghan security forces as they were "the most effective factor to win the war."

According to the Le Monde report, Obama had also asked Germany to contribute 2000, Italy to send 1500 and Britain to move in 1,000 as extra combat troops to Afghanistan.

Source: Xinhua
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