- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2012

The State Department raised no resistance Friday to France’s announcement to pull its troops from Afghanistan in 2013, a year ahead of schedule.

The move was not abrupt and been coordinated with NATO, the Afghan government and the United States, a State Department spokeswoman said.

“What we are gratified by is that this was not precipitous,” Victoria Nuland said.

President Nicholas Sarkozy’s announcement signals an acceleration of the gradual drawdown of international forces in Afghanistan that the Obama administration had hoped to see unfold through the end of 2014.

Mr. Sarkozy made the announcement Friday after meetings in Paris with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The French leader faces a tough re-election bid this spring, and might seek to appease voters whose call for a troop pullout escalated last week after four French soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan.

Ms. Nuland said Mr. Sarkozy’s move “was a national decision of France” and conforms to the agreement that nations with troops in NATO’s force in Afghanistan made to transfer authority to Afghan authorities by 2014.

“Each country, you will see as we go through this between now and 2014, will be making national decisions,” she said. “But they’re also making them in consultation with the rest of the [NATO] partners and with the Afghans.”



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