France Withdraws Combat Troops from Afghanistan

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan –
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Steve Townsend (center), Regional Command – East deputy commanding general for operations, talks with French Army Brig. Gen. Jean-François Hogard (right), former Task Force La Fayette commander, and Afghan Army Brig. Gen. Emam Nazar. Dec. 30 2010.
(Photo by French Army Chief Sgt. Sabrina Vincent, Task Force Lafayette).

On Tuesday November 20, France withdrew 400 combat troops from the Nijrab base in the Kapisa region of Afghanistan. This shift of the troops from Nijrab to Kabul marked the end of French occupation of Kapisa, the region responsible for the most French casualties since they began sending troops to Afghanistan in 2001.

The troops belonged to the Task Force La Fayette, a two-battalion brigade of 2,200 formed in November of 2009. The 16th battalion was the one shifted to Kabul yesterday morning. The Task Force La Fayette was one of seven brigades that operated as part of the Regional Command-East, which worked in conjunction with a brigade of the National Afghan Army. In the past few months, the remaining French combat troops acted only as a support for the Afghan troops as they prepared for their withdrawal.

On Sunday November 19, General Hautecloque-Raysz, commander of the Task Force La Fayette since April 2012, met with the governor of Kapisa for a final security briefing before the French troops were moved. Four days earlier, on November 15, Hautecloque-Raysz explained in a briefing with the French Defense Minister that “withdrawal is risky but it had been well anticipated…it is being realized under the right conditions.”  Hautecloque-Raysz also observed that “the insurgent attacks are in clear decline since three weeks ago… the general assessment is a drop in rebel movements in all of Afghanistan.”

On November 16, there were 2,200 French troops in Afghanistan. By January 1, the number will be down to 1,500, with most of those troops centered in Kabul in order to retrieve weapons and train Afghan troops. According Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in October, French combat troops are expected to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, a statement that was also confirmed by General Hautecloque-Raysz on November 16. The General’s opinion is that “the Afghans are ready to take responsibility.”


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