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National Assembly debates military reinforcements in Afghanistan

Video by Aurore Cloe DUPUIS

Latest update : 2009-12-16

French lawmakers are debating three potential strategies for the ongoing war in Afghanistan, including sending additional military personnel to aid a US-led troop surge, French Defence Minister Herve Morin (pictured) said.

AFP - France on Wednesday signalled for the first time that it may agree to send troop reinforcements to Afghanistan in response to a request from US President Barack Obama.

Defence Minister Herve Morin told parliament that sending "extra military resources" was one of three options under review, along with boosting development aid and providing more training to Afghan police and troops.

In a major address this month, Obama announced his decision to send 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan and called on European allies to also contribute to the surge, saying "this is not just America's war."

French officials have said the US administration has asked France to add an extra 1,500 troops to its current 3,300 pairs of boots on the ground -- the fourth largest contingent serving in the NATO mission.

London will host a major summit on Afghanistan next month that will bring together all the major allies and Afghan officials to chart a new course for the Afghan mission in light of the new US strategy.

"France and Germany will decide whether or not to reinforce their presence as a result of this conference," Morin told parliament.

"The various options are on the table and will be examined in light of the outcome of the London conference," he added.

The defence minister said France and other NATO allies were hoping to reach a new deal with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to step up the fight against corruption and opium production.

Among France's European allies, Britain has offered 500 reinforcements for its already 9,000-strong force in southern Afghanistan, while Italy has promised an unspecified number of extra soldiers.

Germany has proved reticent and Sarkozy last month said he would "not send a single soldier more".

But Morin suggested that France was reconsidering its initial stance although much hinged on whether the mission could be redefined with a serious commitment from Karzai.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner last month told journalists that Karzai was "corrupt" but that the allies had no choice but to work with him.

"He is our guy," he said.

Morin said France and its allies wanted a "new system of governance" in Afghanistan that would set targets for training the Afghan police and army, which the West hopes can one day take control of the security situation.

He also rejected calls for setting a withdrawal date for French troops saying it would be a "sign of weakness" and would "send an extremely powerful signal to the Taliban" that the West is not determined to stay the course.

More than 80 percent of French people are against Paris sending more troops to Afghanistan, according to a recent opinion poll.

About 113,000 US and allied troops are serving in Afghanistan, battling a Taliban insurgency since the 2001 US-led invasion sparked by the September 11 attacks.

Date created : 2009-12-16


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