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Faster than NATO, France ends Afghan combat role

By The Associated Press

This article was published November 20, 2012 at 8:35 a.m.

— France on Tuesday ended its combat operations in Afghanistan, pulling hundreds of troops from a base in a volatile region northeast of Kabul and fulfilling promises to end its combat role on a faster track than other NATO allies.

After a handover ceremony with Afghan troops, 500 French combat soldiers in trucks and armored vehicles left the Nijrab base in the Kapisa region — where anti-government insurgents have been active — and traveled southwest to Kabul, the capital, said Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman.

“This is the end of combat operations,” Burkhard said, adding that the withdrawal went smoothly. “It’s the end of support operations for the Afghan National Army because we have no more troops who can deploy in such a role.”

France was once one of the largest contributors to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, with a peak deployment of 4,000 troops — though far smaller than the tens of thousands of U.S. troops there. Since mid-2008, French forces were deployed in Kapisa, a crescent-shaped and strategic region along mountains between Kabul and the Pakistani border.

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