French troop's withdrawal from Afghanistan stirs mixed reaction

10:28, June 27, 2011      

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by Ounissi Sonia

To his followers, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan is welcomed after the death of Ousaman bin Laden and served as a landmark key for him to stay at the Elysee Palace for a further five-year term.

But critics say the decision showed the president as a sheep- like follower and blamed him of being in the footsteps of his American counterpart Barack Obama.

France unveiled Thursday a gradual withdrawal of its approximately 4,000 troops in Afghanistan in a timetable comparable to that of the staggered pullout of American troops, starting this summer.

"Allied strategy to make the Afghan forces responsible for their territory's security is working and it is normal that as far as this strategy is working, the allies reduce the number of their forces in Afghanistan," said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

"The death of bin Laden and the disruption of al-Qaeda which was one of the objectives of the campaign carried out in Afghanistan, is an element that reinforces this perspective," he added.

Axel Poniatowski, president of the ruling-party UMP's foreign affairs committee at the National Assembly, hailed in his blog that the "significant withdrawal" aimed at helping Afghan leaders "meet their responsibilities."

However, in a note titled "Dear Nicolas," former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin saw the decision as a sign of a weak political strategy which lacks initiative.

"It is like a follower of the United States which is never a good thing for our country which should be initiative. You know it like me. But I want to believe that it is the beginning of an awareness and a takeover of the political strategy," Villepin said in his blog.

"Our presence there has no justification. We have neither clear political purpose nor political (and) military strategy," he added.

The French announcement came hours after U.S. President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that Washington would withdraw 10, 000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and 23,000 more by next summer.

"It's a pity. France was a follower when it is obvious that the planned withdrawal is in the interest of France," Segolene Royal, a member of Socialist Party told state-run TV channel France 2.

"I think this issue should be debated in the National Assembly and that on these issues, there must be a consensus among different political groups of the National Assembly," she added.

To Jean-Daniel Levy, director of opinion research in CSA Institute, Elysee's decision to remove French troops from Afghanistan in the wake of U.S. schedule was not a surprise.

"It's the American policy which dominates. So I can not see how France will stay there after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops especially that it has never had its own military or political strategy in Afghanistan," he told Xinhua.

France deployed about 4,000 French soldiers in Afghan territories as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help local authorities restore security and crack down on Taliban insurgents.

Since 2001, 63 French soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Undeniably, the end of French troop fighting in Afghanistan can be helpful to reduce local hatred to French nationals, not to mention there are still two French hostages in the hands of Afghan militants.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet has expressed hopes to release the two French journalists abducted in Afghanistan after the withdrawal announcement, saying "we hope the unblocking situation in Afghanistan will be in favor of the two journalists abducted in the country since 2009."

Source: Xinhua
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