French President Francois Hollande says he plans to pull all of his country's 2,000 combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, but that France will continue to support the war-torn country.
During an unannounced visit to Afghanistan Friday, Hollande said some 1,300 other troops will remain in the country in a support role. They will be training Afghan security forces and looking after equipment.
The newly-elected French leader said the early withdrawal will be closely coordinated with the Afghan government and NATO allies.
He also said the Afghan army will be ready by year's end to take over French military installations in eastern Kapisa province.
Hollande made his remarks after meeting Friday in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In a joint news conference, the French president said France would still have a presence in Afghanistan, but a different role than in the past -- focusing instead on the civilian front.
NATO Countries With Most Troops in Afghanistan
United States 90,000
Afghan Security Forces on Duty (as of March 2012) 344,108
Earlier in the day, Hollande met with French troops stationed at a military base in the Nijrab district of Kapisa. He thanked the troops for their service and said any withdrawal would be closely coordinated with NATO allies.
During his presidential campaign, Hollande pledged to pull French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013, a year earlier than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy had planned.
France has some 3,300 troops in Afghanistan. Eighty-three French troops have been killed in the country since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
All foreign combat forces are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Hollande arrived in Kabul Friday accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Meanwhile, bomb blasts in three southern Afghan provinces Friday killed three people and wounded nine. Also, a NATO soldier was killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.