French President Francois Hollande in Tulle, southwestern France, on June 9, 2012
Sat Jun 9, 2012 5:41PM GMT
France will start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan next month and will complete the pullout by the end of this year, French President Francois Hollande says.
The withdrawal "will begin in the month of July, will be carried out and be completed at the end of 2012," Hollande said on Saturday.
The announcement was made hours after at least four French soldiers were killed and five others wounded in a bomb explosion in eastern Afghanistan.
Three of the five injured soldiers are in a critical condition.
Around 3,500 French soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan, mainly in the capital city of Kabul and in the eastern Kapisa province.
Kapisa has proved a tough fight for the French as France has lost 87 soldiers in Afghanistan with the latest deaths.
France provides the fifth largest contingent to US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The growing number of military casualties in Afghanistan has intensified opposition in the United States and other NATO member states against the protracted war in the country.