Kabul (ANTARA News/AFP) - The French defence minister told the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan on Monday that Paris was determined to stick to its timetable for withdrawing troops by the end of the year.

Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan, where four French soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack by a burqa-clad Taliban suicide bomber.

Le Drian said the main purpose of his visit was to show respect and solidarity with French troops fighting as part of the NATO force against a decade-long Taliban insurgency.

But the minister also said that during a two-hour meeting on Monday with General John Allen, the commander of NATO`s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), he had spelled out the French commitment to its withdrawal plan.

"I shared my determination to follow the timetable France has established," he told a news conference before leaving Afghanistan after a two-day visit.

After Saturday`s attack, French President Francois Hollande, who had already promised to bring combat troops home by the end of the year, announced the withdrawal would begin next month.

Hollande confirmed that the withdrawal would be completed by the end of 2012 -- a year earlier than Paris initially planned, and two years before NATO allies.

Around 2,000 out of a total of 3,500 French troops are to be pulled out by the end of the year.

There are fears that Afghan forces will not be able to fill the security vacuum in volatile Kapisa, but Le Drian said President Hamid Karzai had assured him of his government`s willingness to take on responsibility for the area.

There are about 130,000 NATO troops fighting alongside Afghan government forces against the Taliban insurgency. A US-led coalition toppled the Taliban regime in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. (*)

Editor: Kunto Wibisono
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