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France to begin gradual withdrawal

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday he would follow the United States in starting a gradual troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a move likely to boost him before a 2012 election campaign.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2011 01:16 IST

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday he would follow the United States in starting a gradual troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a move likely to boost him before a 2012 election campaign.

Sarkozy said troops sent for reinforcement would start returning in a time frame similar to the US force withdrawal. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday the US planned to pull out 33,000 troops by next summer.

"Given the progress we have seen (in Afghanistan), France will begin a gradual withdrawal of reinforcement troops sent to Afghanistan, in a proportional manner and in a calendar comparable to the withdrawal of American reinforcements," a statement issued by Sarkozy's office said following a telephone call with Obama.

The French president "stressed that France shared the American analysis and objectives and that it was happy with President Obama's decision".

Obama's announcement, after a month-long strategy review, outlined the exit of the forces he sent to the country at the end of 2009 as part of a "surge". Six thousand Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and $1 trillion has been spent.