French troops to begin Afghanistan pullout in July: Hollande

PARIS, June 9 ( -- France will begin to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in July, French President Francois Hollande said Saturday afternoon.

The pullout will be completed by the end of this year, Hollande said after four French soldiers were killed Saturday morning during an operation in eastern Afghanistan.

This operation (of withdrawal) will begin in July. It will be implemented and completed by the end of 2012. Until then, everything must be done for our troops to meet their obligations but with the highest level of security and with the greatest vigilance for the lives of soldiers, he said in a televised press briefing.

The president promised to get those wounded repatriated quickly, saying that a plane has already left and will ensure them back as soon as possible.

I asked Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, accompanied by Chief of Staff of the Army, to go to Afghanistan tomorrow to show the nation's support to our forces, Hollande said.

More than 3,800 French troops have been stationed in Afghanistan within the framework of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the war-torn country.

Hollande, during a visit to Afghanistan on May 25, announced that the French combat force would be home by the end of this year, two years earlier than NATO's plan to pull out forces in 2014.