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Vol. 74/No. 43      November 15, 2010

Paris announces withdrawal
from Afghanistan
November 1—In the latest example of waning commitment to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan among European powers, French defense minister Herve Morin announced October 28 that Paris will begin drawing down in early 2011.

Morin said the French forces would be pulled out from Surobi District of Kabul Province, east of the capital, where most of its 3,500 troops are deployed. The district is “a zone in which we hope we can transfer responsibilities to the Afghans during 2011,” Morin told the press.

French officials denied that the announcement had anything to do with the release one day earlier of an apparent message from Osama bin Laden. In an audio tape broadcast by Al-Jazeera a man identifying himself as Bin Laden threatened to kill French citizens in retaliation for French involvement in the war and a recently passed law in France banning Muslim women from publicly wearing a burqa or niqab, which covers the face. The law is scheduled to go into effect in April.

An undisclosed number of French troops stationed in the adjacent Kapisa Province to the northeast of Kabul are to remain, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The Dutch government officially ended its Afghan mission in early August, with a complete withdrawal scheduled for the end of the year. Its troop presence has declined from 1,600 to about 380.

The Dutch withdrawal was announced after the Labor party left the coalition government in protest over proposals to continue its military mission in Afghanistan. At the same time Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in mid-October that his government would soon consider a request from NATO to help train Afghan police.

The Canadian government confirmed in March that it will withdraw its 2,800 troops some time next year. Several weeks ago, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said 3,300 Italian troops would begin to draw down next summer and completely withdraw by 2014.

There are some 92,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to Army Times. About 40,000 troops are deployed from 45 other countries, according to official NATO figures. Only 13 governments have more than 500 troops in the country. Deployments range from 9,500 from the United Kingdom to 3 from Austria.
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