France signals shifting role in Afghanistan - FAP (05.06.07)
PARIS, June 5, 2007 (AFP) - France wants to shift its priorities in Afghanistan from military operations to training Afghan security forces and helping the country’s development, French Defence Minister Herve Morin indicated Tuesday. "Our desire is not to remain forever in Afghanistan", Morin said after a meeting here with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who has been pressing European allies to make good on commitments to send more troops to Afghanistan. French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged before his election last month to bring home the estimated 1,000 French troops serving in Afghanistan, but has since softened his position. Morin did not say whether France planned to reduce the size of its force in Afghanistan, but made clear it sees an increasingly non-combatant role for itself. He said France believed that the goal should be to help make Afghanistan capable of defending its own sovereignty by training its army and police and strengthening government institutions : "So the will of France is to prioritise these missions first". Gates has complained that the European allies have failed to provide some 3,000 troops that are needed mainly to train the police and the army. He said US commanders were looking at ways to shift some trainers from the Afghan National Army to the police. But he said he is also looking for other countries to provide more trainers. About 37,000 troops from 37 countries currently form the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.