Kouchner sees 3,000 French troops in Afghanistan

Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:35am EDT
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By Roman Kozhevnikov

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - French troops operating in Afghanistan will number about 3,000, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Friday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced last week that Paris would send an extra 700 troops to Afghanistan, which would bring France's contribution to NATO's fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda there to roughly 2,300 men.

On a visit to the Central Asian state of Tajikistan, Kouchner gave the higher figure and officials in Paris said it was likely he had included in his estimate the 700 troops based in nearby states and involved in related operations.

"I cannot give you an exact figure, because the military must make their own decision, but I can tell you that about 3,000 French troops will be placed in Afghanistan," Kouchner said, speaking through an interpreter.

"This is the will of our president and his decision was not spontaneous. He sent a letter to all coalition members to inform them about it," Kouchner told reporters.

He did not say when the extra troops would deploy or what role they would play, but his mention of Sarkozy's letter suggested he was referring to the previously announced increase.

Officials in Paris said on condition of anonymity that they had not seen Kouchner's comments but they presumed that if he was accurately translated he must have accidentally included troops stationed nearby rather than in Afghanistan.

Kouchner will visit Afghanistan this weekend, French diplomats said, his first trip there since France announced it was sending an extra 700 troops to the east of the country.   Continued...

<p>A French soldier from the NATO forces keeps watch as Afghan women and their children arrive to attend a free medical assistance camp by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in the outskirts of Kabul, April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>