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France will not desert Afghanistan, says Sarkozy on Bastille Day

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged that the French military will fight on to ensure peace in Afghanistan, after watching African troops march on the annual Bastille Day parade on Paris’s Champs Elysées Wednesday.

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"The French army will do its duty in the service of peace with our allies and our friends,

June saw the highest death toll for foreign forces in the nine-year Afghan war:

  • 102 troops were killed;
  • That figure is three times the number of US and Nato soldiers lost in May;
  • General David Petraeus says that his forces are up against an “industrial-strength insurgency” and suggests fighting will intensify in coming months;
  • No statistics are available for Afghan casualties.

wherever we are," he told France 2 television, after meeting troops at the annual military parade.

Sarkozy met French soldiers who had served, and in some cases been injured, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon, where France is part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

"They have done their duty and we must do our duty, which is to support them, help them and make sure they are never abandoned. We need them," Sarkozy said.

He went on to welcome the presence of troops from African nations, which he claims signals the end of France’s alleged interference in the fate of its former colonies.

“I was very moved to see the African veterans who were here, African soldiers from French-speaking countries, and with whom we have a common history,” he told the troops. “They were parading in front of French troops. It was magnificent and they were very moved. And the French army staged a beautiful parade, despite the weather.”

Previous 14 July festivities

Last week a bomb killed a French soldier serving with Nato forces in eastern Afghanistan, according to the presidential office, bringing to the number of French troops killed there to
45 since their deployment in January 2002.

A poll published in the left-wing newspaper L'Humanité on Wednesday said fewer than three in 10 French people support France's ongoing involvement in the Afghanistan war.
 

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