News24

Sarkozy: No more troops

2009-12-01 19:32

Paris - President Nicolas Sarkozy has refused a US request for France to send more troops to Afghanistan, the minister for Europe said on Tuesday.

"You know the president's answer, it's 'no'," Pierre Lellouche said in a French television interview when asked about reports that President Barack Obama was seeking 1 500 extra French troops for the Afghan mission.

Le Monde newspaper quoted an aide to Sarkozy as saying that France was weighing the request and could agree to boost its contingent in Afghanistan as long as the fresh troops focus on training Afghan forces.

According to the daily, Obama has asked his allies to provide 10 000 extra troops for the Afghan campaign, including 1 500 from France, 2 000 from Germany, 1 500 from Italy and 1 000 from Britain.

Britain has already agreed to send 500 more and Italy says it will increase its force without saying by how many, but so far Germany has proved reticent and Sarkozy said last month he would "not send a single soldier more."

Le Monde however quoted a member of Sarkozy's staff as saying: "We're not saying no to Obama.

"We applaud the approach that he's preparing to announce and we'll take part in the January 28 conference in London to see what the Afghans are ready to contribute," the unnamed aide said.

"We'll see what we can do to complete, if necessary, our presence, notably in terms of training," he added.

London will host a major summit on Afghanistan next month.

Earlier, French Defence Minister Herve Morin confirmed that "the United States is asking the Europeans for more troops."

"If there were to be an additional effort, the only effort that would make sense would be in terms of Afghan army and police training," said Morin.

"There cannot simply be a military response," he stressed. "For us, building Afghan institutions is a key component of an exit strategy."

Obama was expected to announce at least 30 000 US reinforcements in a major speech on Afghan strategy on Tuesday.

The White House said on Monday that Obama had called Sarkozy to update him on the plans.

France already has 3 750 soldiers attached to the campaign, 3 400 of them in Afghanistan itself - some attached to the NATO mission and some under US command - and is the fourth largest contributor to the western force.

AFP