Another 200 French soldiers to leave Afghanistan
PARIS (Reuters) - France will pull out a further 200 soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of the year, the president's office said on Monday, on top of the 200 that returned home at the end of October under a gradual handover by foreign troops.
On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said two districts in southern Helmand province would be put under the control of Afghan forces in the coming months.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that the handover to Afghan forces in Kabul and the region of Surobi, east of the capital, would allow the 200 further French troops to come home.
Bringing back French troops may prove a boost to Sarkozy in advance of a presidential election in April in which his Socialist rival, Francois Hollande, is favoured in polls to win.
Sarkozy also said France would shortly sign a treaty with Afghanistan to reinforce civil aid and reconstruction efforts.
He has said he wants to withdraw about 1,000 troops by the end of 2012 with a complete pullout of its 4,500 soldiers by end-2014, the deadline agreed by NATO-led forces and Karzai for handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces.
Seventy-six French soldiers have been killed since France joined the U.S. and NATO-led Afghanistan operations in 2001.
(Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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