French early Afghan withdrawal a 'mistake'
France's decision to pull its forces out of Afghanistan early was condemned Saturday by an Afghan lawmaker and analysts who called it a "mistake" that would benefit only the Taliban.
Tahira Mojaddidi, a member of parliament from the eastern province of Kapisa where most of the 3,600-strong French contingent is based, said Afghan forces were insufficiently prepared to take on the Taliban on their own.
"We absolutely disagree with the remarks of the French president that he would pull his forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013," she said.
"I think this is a mistake because the Afghan forces are not well equipped and well trained in the province of Kapisa."
Mojaddidi said Afghan forces needed tranining and equipment.
"Presently the Taliban hold sway in the Tagab district of Kapisa and there are no Afghan forces there. If France leaves in 2013, Kapisa province will fall to the insurgents," she said.
After meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Paris on Friday, Sarkozy said France had decided to transfer security in Kapisa to Afghan forces from March of this year.
The decision came a week after the killing of four French servicemen by a renegade Afghan soldier there.
"The pursuit of the transition and this gradual transfer of combat responsibilities will allow us to plan for a return of all our combat forces by the end of 2013," Sarkozy said, adding that 1,000 troops would return in 2012.
"A few hundred" French troops will stay on after 2013 to train Afghan troops, Sarkozy said.
He will also encourage NATO to consider transferring all its combat operations to Afghan forces in 2013, instead of the scheduled deadline of the end of 2014.
Political analyst Wahid Taqat said the decision would be a boost for the Taliban.
"The withdrawal ... will demoralise the other international forces in Afghanistan as well as Afghan forces.
"Instead of a rushed withdrawal, France should have strengthened their position and forces in Afghanistan.
"It gives a lot of morale to Taliban but demoralises the Afghan security forces."
Taqat condemned the move as a capitulation.
"(It makes them look) like a country that is afraid of terrorists. It is a bit shameful for the French," he said.
"The Taliban will definitely use this as winning propaganda for their future operations in Afghanistan."
Karzai is on a five-day European trip to sign long-term strategic partnership agreements aimed at bolstering support for Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.
Political analyst Ahmad Saeedi accused the French of taking a hasty decision following last week's shooting.
"He was angry and the announcement was made in a rush. ... The only winner in this announcement is Mr Sarkozy, who has his elections on the way (in April and May), and the Taliban who could use this announcement for their propaganda."
Sarkozy warned after the attacks that he might accelerate France's withdrawal from Afghanistan, prompting NATO's chief to call on contributing nations to remain committed to the security transition.
The United States, Britain, Germany and Italy are the main contributors to the NATO-led force of some 130,000 troops fighting a 10-year insurgency by hardline Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks.
A total of 82 French troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of their deployment in 2001.
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