French army chief to go to Afghanistan to boost troop safety

08:50, July 15, 2011      

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French Chief of Army Staff Elrick Irastorza would go to Afghanistan "in the coming hours" to reinforce the security of French troops deployed there before their final withdrawal is achieved, Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Thursday at a press conference.

The decision was made during an emergent security meeting around noon convened by French President Nicolas Sarkozy amid continuous casualties of the French troops on the Afghan soil recently.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, Defense Minister Gerard Longuet, General Staff Edouard Guillaud and some other senior officials attended the meeting.

Five French soldiers were killed on the eve of the French National Day by a suicide bomber in Kapisa province, followed by a new death on Thursday morning when the state's traditional celebration of military parade was going on.

The new casualties in the past 48 hours have brought the number of French soldiers died in Afghanistan to 70 since 2001.

After assessing the situation in Afghanistan, General Irastorza would present a report back to French president in a week on how to proceed the withdrawal scheduled from now to 2014, according to Longuet.

The objective is to strengthen the Afghan security forces, consolidate the security of regions patrolled by French troops and reduce the threat to French force stationed there, Longuet told reporters.

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

Sarkozy said a quarter of the troop were expected to return to France by the end of 2012.

Source: Xinhua
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