By Abdul Haleem and Chen Xin, PNA / Xinhua and U.S. News Agency / Asian
After the deadly Taliban suicide attack against French forces last weekend, which left four service members dead and five others injured, French President Francois Hollande announced that troop pullout from Afghanistan would start in July and completed by yearend.
Hollande announced troop withdrawal when he visited Afghanistan on May 25 but without specifying a date, saying only the combat forces will leave for home by the end of year.
However, he set a specific timetable this time, saying the pull-out begins from July this year.
The French president had also asked his defense minister to visit Afghanistan.
French Defense Minister Jean Yves Le Drian arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday, just one day after the deadly suicide attack that left four French soldiers dead and five others injured in Kapisa province, 65 km north of Afghan capital Kabul.
This is the second deadly attack on French troops in Kapisa province since January.
In the previous attack on Jan. 20, a man wearing Afghan army uniform opened fire and killed four French soldiers, wounding 15 others.
Taliban claimed responsibility and said a Mujahid (holy warrior) loyal to the outfit carried out the deadly attack.
Meeting President Hamid Karzai Monday, French Defense Minister Le Drian said that Paris will continue its cooperation with Afghanistan especially in the field of providing training to Afghan security forces within the framework of the existing strategic agreement between the two countries, Presidential Palace said in a statement.
Like in the past, the Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have also claimed responsibility for attack on French troops in Nijrab district of Kapisa province on Saturday which once again claimed the lives of four French soldiers.
In a statement posted on the website of the Taliban, the outfit said a Taliban fighter from Kabul carried out the deadly suicide bombing killing 21 people including 18 French soldiers and three Afghans.
Since U.S.-led coalition military campaign against Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001, 88 French soldiers have been killed, according to media reports.
France has more than 3,300 troops in Afghanistan within the framework of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The French government said 2,000 of its forces will be withdrawn by the end of 2012 and the remaining would offer Afghan security forces training until the NATO-led ISAF combat mission ends in 2014.
After paying tribute to the services of the four slain soldiers in Kapisa, French Defense Minister Le Drian would take their bodies home.