French troops pull out two years early

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France withdrew its combat troops from Afghanistan yesterday, marking the end of its battlefield role in the Nato-led war after more than ten years.

Four hundred French troops returned to Kabul after four years of combat operations in Kapisa province and Kabul’s Sarobi district, a French spokesman said, adding they would return to France within days.

“Today is the end of our forward operations. By the end of the year, we will have 1,500 French troops remaining in Afghanistan in non-combat operations,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Leroy.

Of those remaining troops, 1,000 will help return military equipment to France and 500 will stay on to train Afghanistan’s fledgling army, he said.

France joins Canada and the Netherlands in ending its combat role in Afghanistan. Its early exit was initiated by newly elected president François Hollande, two years ahead of the alliance’s timetable.