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France Hopes to Transfer Security to Afghans in 2011

French soldiers patrol in the mountains of the valley of Kapica, Afghanistan (File)
French soldiers patrol in the mountains of the valley of Kapica, Afghanistan (File)

A French official said Thursday the country's forces in Afghanistan hope to transfer security of some provinces to Afghans next year.

Defense Minister Herve Morin said French and Afghan forces have made great progress in peace and stability, particularly in the town of Sarobi.

Morin said handing over security to Afghans will allow for troops from France and the U.S.-led NATO coalition to withdraw from those areas.

France has about 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Morin insisted his statement had nothing to do with an audio tape purportedly featuring Osama bin Laden calling for France to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.

Al-Jazeera television aired the tape Wednesday.

Bin Laden said the kidnapping of five French nationals in Niger last month was in response to what he called France's unjust treatment of Muslims.

He also threatened retribution for France's plan, starting next year, to ban Muslim women from wearing full face veils.

The precise whereabouts of bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., are unknown.

U.S. General David Petraeus, the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, said in August that bin Laden is believed to be in the remote mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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