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France pulls last troops from combat roles in Afghanistan

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 1648 GMT (0048 HKT)
  • France pulls out its last units engaged directly in combat in Afghanistan
  • About 1,500 French troops will remain to remove equipment and train Afghan forces
  • French medical personnel will also continue to serve at a military hospital in Kabul
  • The United States still has 68,000 troops in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- France pulled its last troops engaged directly in combat out of Afghanistan Saturday, in line with a promise by President Francois Hollande to accelerate his country's withdrawal from the long-running conflict.

About 1,500 French troops remain in Afghanistan to remove equipment and to help train Afghan forces, Defense Ministry spokesman Thierry Burkhard said.

They are likely to stay there for about six months, he said.

The troops who left Saturday will spend a couple of days in Cyprus to decompress and rest before rejoining their families in France for the holidays, according to CNN affiliate BFM-TV.

Top general expects IED problem to rise in Afghanistan

Some 2,500 French troops in total have been withdrawn from Afghanistan over the past year, the channel reported.

French personnel will continue to run Kabul's international airport and serve at the city's military hospital into 2014, BFM-TV said.

France was one of the bigger contributors of troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

The United States, whose troops make up the bulk of the force, still has some 68,000 personnel in Afghanistan.

Coalition forces are working to get Afghan security forces ready to take charge of security after all NATO-led troops withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

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