News / Asia

French Defense Minister: Afghanistan 'A Trap'

New French Defense Minister Alain Juppe arrives for the first weekly meeting of a reshuffled French government, Paris, 17 November 2010
New French Defense Minister Alain Juppe arrives for the first weekly meeting of a reshuffled French government, Paris, 17 November 2010

France's new defense minister is warning Afghanistan is "a trap" for allied troops.

Alain Juppe told Europe-1 radio Wednesday France wants to begin pulling its forces out of Afghanistan and will discuss the possibility of a more expansive drawdown of western troops at an upcoming NATO summit.

Still, Juppe cautioned France will not withdraw its forces from any part of Afghanistan until the government there is ready to assume responsibility for security in those areas.

NATO members are scheduled to meet starting November 19 in Lisbon, Portugal.  

Earlier Wednesday, NATO's top civilian in Afghanistan said alliance forces may stay longer than planned, possibly leading some combat operations in the country beyond the 2014 target date for shifting authority to local troops.

Speaking in Kabul, Mark Sedwill said the transition from international to Afghan control might last into 2015 or beyond.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has set 2014 as the date when Afghan forces assume total security responsibility from foreign forces.  Sedwill described 2014 as an "inflection point" where the mission will shift.

The comment is the latest indication that the U.S. and its allies will continue a sizable military role in Afghanistan over the next few years, despite plans to drawdown troops.  

It also comes as the administrations in Washington and Kabul have downplayed a recent split about NATO's tactics in the fight against the Taliban.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday dismissed Mr. Karzai's recent criticism of U.S. and NATO tactics as nothing more than frustration after years of war.

The U.S. defense secretary told a Wall Street Journal conference that he and the Afghan president want the U.S. to move away from a military role in Afghanistan, and focus more on development.

Last week, Mr. Karzai told The Washington Post newspaper the intensity and visibility of U.S. and NATO operations risk fueling the Taliban insurgency.

Canada confirmed Tuesday that up to 950 military trainers and support troops will remain in Afghanistan in a training role after Canada's combat mission ends in 2011.

Canadian officials said 750 military trainers and at least 200 support staff will stay in the country until 2014.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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