- French defence minister in Tajikistan
DUSHANBE, Sept 7, 2007 (AFP) - French Defence Minister Herve Morin began Friday his first trip to the Afghan region with a stop in neighbouring Tajikistan, where he was expected to press to keep logistical operations going. Before heading to Afghanistan later Friday, Morin was due to meet with the pilots of the six Mirage fighters based in Tajikistan, who operate in the skies above Afghanistan to support NATO troops on the ground, his advisors said. The fighters are to be redeployed to a NATO base in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar in the coming months. In a meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, Morin is expected to voice France’s desire to keep its logistical operations based in Tajikistan, Morin’s advisors said. In Afghanistan, Morin is to meet Friday with the head of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), US General Dan McNeill, and with a team of French military instructors integrated into the Afghan forces. On Saturday, Morin is scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
The French government has said it wants to shift its priorities in Afghanistan from military operations to training Afghan security forces and helping the country’s development.
France has an estimated 1,000 troops serving in Afghanistan as part of the 37-nation ISAF, plus military instructors.