French soldiers fold their flag during a handover ceremony at the French military Camp Nijrab in Nijrab district of Kapisa province, November 20, 2012
France has ended its combat mission in Afghanistan two years before the planned withdrawal of US-led coalition forces from the war-torn country.
French President Francais Hollande on Tuesday ordered the advanced extraction of the armed forces that were fighting as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said 500 soldiers in trucks and armored vehicles have been withdrawn from the Nijrab base in Afghanistan’s strategic northeastern region of Kapisa and headed to the capital Kabul.
The remaining 1,500 French soldiers are responsible for repatriating military supplies deployed by the French in their 11-year military role with ISAF and carrying out routine tasks in Kabul’s airport.
Paris decided to accelerate its withdrawal after a string of so-called green on blue attacks in 2011 and 2012, including in January when an Afghan soldier shot dead five French troops.
France’s base in Kapisa controled a deadly route from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where some 60 French troops had been killed, which is the majority of the France’s 88 lost in the Afghanistan mission.
The initial decision to end the combat mission came from former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who successfully debated a 2013 withdrawal. Hollande advanced the withdrawal date to 2012 to fulfill one of his campaign pledges.
France was the fifth largest contributor to ISAF’s 100,000 forces after United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.
According to the US military, around 60 foreign soldiers have been killed in green on blue attacks so far this year.