From Joris Fioriti, AFP: France ended its combat mission in Afghanistan on Tuesday, withdrawing troops from a strategic province northeast of Kabul as part of a speeded-up departure from the war-torn country.
Paris has said all French combat soldiers will leave the country next month, two years before allied nations contributing to the 100,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led by the United States are due to depart.
Taliban insurgents called on other foreign forces to follow France’s example.
"We urge the others to follow France and leave Afghanistan, end the occupation of Afghanistan and leave the fate of the country to Afghans themselves," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP.
France has lost 88 soldiers in Afghanistan and has been the fifth largest contributor to ISAF, behind the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.
Paris decided to accelerate its withdrawal after a string of deadly attacks in 2011 and 2012, including an assault in January in which an Afghan soldier shot dead five French troops as they were jogging at their Kapisa base.
Then-president Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the combat mission would end in 2013, but his successor Francois Hollande brought that forward to the end of 2012. . . .
Around 1,500 French soldiers will stay into 2013 to take responsibility for repatriating equipment and training the Afghan army to take over. (photo: Joel Saget/AFP)