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Sunday, October 15, 2006

French special forces to quit Afghanistan -paper

PARIS, Oct 15 (Reuters) - France plans to withdraw around 200 special forces from southern Afghanistan at the start of next year following a recent upsurge of violence, the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche reported on Sunday.

The French defence ministry was not immediately available for comment.

The French military is participating in different missions in Afghanistan and the small special forces team has been under U.S. control since 2003 as part of operation Enduring Freedom.

Nine French troops have died in fighting in Afghanistan and Le Journal du Dimanche said the relatively high death toll had played a part in the decision to withdraw the forces.

However, the paper said the United States was also downscaling its Enduring Freedom operation and added that some 1,000 French troops deployed around Kabul under NATO control would be staying put.

Afghanistan is going through its bloodiest phase since U.S.-led troops drove the Taliban from power after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and NATO has called on its member countries to send in more soldiers to help combat the upsurge in violence.

However, France last month declined to dispatch more troops, saying it already had its hands full with the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, where it has committed some 2,000 soldiers.
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