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France considers Obama troop surge request

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-12-01

France is unlikely to send any more troops to Afghanistan other than those involved in training Afghan army and police units, French Foreign Minister Herve Morin said in response to Obama's imminent announcement of a troop surge.

As US President Barack Obama prepared to unveil his much-awaited new Afghanistan strategy later Tuesday, his administration has been calling on allies – including France - to increase their troop presence in Afghanistan.

On Monday, leading French daily, Le Monde, reported that the US had asked France to boost its contingent of 3,750 troops in Afghanistan by 1,500. French foreign ministry officials have also confirmed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a phone call to her French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, late last week.

But US and French officials refused to confirm or deny reports that Washington was pushing for an increased French troop presence.

Responding to Monday’s news report, French Defence Minister Herve Morin declined to comment on the specific figure from the report but confirmed that "the United States is asking the Europeans for more troops," according to the AFP news service.

But Morin stressed that France is unlikely to send more troops to the war zone. Instead, he maintained France would be concentrating on preparing Afghan security forces for a greater role in anti-insurgency operations.

"If there were to be an additional effort, the only effort that would make sense would be in terms of Afghan army and police training," Morin told the AFP.

"There cannot simply be a military response," he stressed, adding that the allies must also focus on "the construction of Afghan institutions and improving governance."

Reconsidering Sarkozy’s ‘not a single more’ soldier, report

Amid growing reports of increased US pressure on France for a troop surge, French daily Le Figaro quoted an unnamed senior French official as saying French President Nicolas Sarkozy could reconsider an earlier decision not to increase French troop presence in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the paper in October, Sarkozy asserted that France would send "not a single soldier more" to Afghanistan.

But speaking to Le Figaro Tuesday, a source from the French presidential palace who declined to be named, said Sarkozy "did not exclude reconsidering his [ealier] refusal to reinforce the contingent" in Afghanistan.

"Obama's announcement will not be followed by a mechanical augmentation of French troops in Afghanistan," the source is quoted saying, adding that "the American decision must be followed by precise commitment from Afghan President Hamid Karzai in terms of boosting recruitment in the Afghan National Army and police force.”

Doubled commitment

On Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the UK would boost its regular troops in Afghanistan by 500 to 9,500 by the end of the year.

In his speech later Tuesday, Obama is expected to say he would send an extra 30,000 soldiers in the coming months in addition to the 21,000 sent in March this year. It means Obama will have doubled his country's commitment in Afghanistan since he took office just over a year ago.

The new Afghan strategy, which will be announced in a live broadcast from the West Point military academy at 2am Paris time (GMT+1) Wednesday. According to military experts, an additional 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan is expected to cost between 20 and 40 billion dollars.

Ahead of the broadcast, Obama told US military commanders he had settled on a plan and gave the orders to carry it out, the White House said.

"The commander-in-chief delivered the orders," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who added that Obama would offer a timeframe for reducing troop numbers in a war which is now in its ninth year.

"Our time there will be limited," he said. "We're not going to be there in another eight of nine years."

Date created : 2009-12-01