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France to pull 1,000 troops from Afghanistan: Sarkozy

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President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that France would withdraw a quarter of its 4,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, becoming the latest NATO power to downsize its combat mission in the war-torn country.

The French leader announced the withdrawal after jetting in on a surprise visit to meet troops stationed in Sarobi district, northeast of Kabul, and to be briefed on progress against the Taliban by a French general.

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“It’s necessary to end the war,” Sarkozy told journalists at the base. “There was never a question of keeping troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.”

France has around 4,000 troops deployed in the country, mostly in Sarobi, Kabul, and in northeastern Kapisa province.

“We will withdraw a quarter of our troops, that’s to say 1,000 men, by the end of 2012,” he said. Those remaining in Afghanistan will be concentrated in Kapisa, where they have been deployed since 2008.

The partial drawdown follows similar announcements by Britain and the United States, as Western leaders look to a final deadline of the end of 2014 to extract all combat troops from an increasingly deadly and costly conflict.

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US President Barack Obama has announced that 33,000 US troops will leave by the end of next summer, effectively ending a military “surge” ordered into Afghanistan, principally the south, in late 2009.

Britain has said 500 of its soldiers will leave by the end of next year. Belgium has also announced some troops will also depart and Canada last week ended its nearly 3,000-strong combat mission in the southern province Kandahar.

Sarkozy was later due to visit Kabul and meet the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, before holding talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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It was his third visit to the battle-scarred country since becoming president and came two days ahead of the Bastille Day French national holiday. His earlier trips were in December 2007 and August 2008.

His trip came a day after a 22-year-old French soldier was killed in a shooting blamed on “accidental fire” by a fellow French soldier.

France has lost 64 soldiers in the course of the war, according to figures compiled by the independent icasualties.org.

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Last month, Sarkozy said “several hundred” French troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan before the end of the year.

His office had said earlier that France would carry out a progressive pullback of its 4,000 troops “in a proportional manner and in a timeframe similar to the pullback of the American reinforcements”.

Sarkozy’s visit comes days after that by new US defence chief Leon Panetta and a week after a visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron, with Western leaders focused on efforts to draw down troops and end the long war.

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Commanders are now preparing to hand over seven NATO-held areas to Afghan control starting in mid-July, although there is widespread doubt over the ability of Afghan forces to take full responsibility for their own security.

Sarkozy said he shared Obama’s belief that security had improved since the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May and that the handover to Afghan troops and police was proceeding smoothly.

Should the situation improve, the pullout of all Western combat troops in 2014 might be “brought forward”, he said.

US-led coalition forces have been fighting the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan since they invaded in late 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks orchestrated by bin Laden.

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Trump wishes ‘Happy Birthday to the US Navy’ — with a picture of a Russian battlecruiser

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Adding to President Donald Trump's Russia obsession was an awkward misfire in a simple happy birthday message.

Sunday morning, before Trump set out on another day of golf, he tweeted a celebratory message to the U.S. Navy, which was officially established in 1775. Instead of showing photos of historic Navy ships or courageous sailors or decorated admiral, Trump posted a battleship, that isn't even an American ship.

According to Politico defense editor Dave Brown, the photo used in the graphic was Russian battlecruiser, the Pyotr Velikiy.

Democrats have alleged that Trump has an unnaturally close relationship to Russia, giving President Vladimir Putin whatever foreign policy demands he has.

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Former George W. Bush aide reveals why Republican talking points on Syria are complete crap

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During the weekend news shows, President Donald Trump's aides and allies took to televisions to justify the United States allowing Turkey to kill U.S. Kurdish allies.

"New Trumpist talking point," former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum began. "The only way to stop Turkey['s] massacre of Kurds is to go to war against Turkey."

That's an inaccurate framing, Frum explained.

"Turkey never believed that: that's why they asked Trump's permission to invade," he said. "All he had to do was say No. He said, Yes. Why? All the plausible answers are corrupt."

https://twitter.com/davidfrum/status/1183446682492637184

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John Dean laments Trump probably should be registered as a foreign agent

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While many of President Donald Trump's campaign staffers, advisers or friends have been outed for doing foreign work while being an unregistered foreign agent, one former White House counsel thinks Trump should also probably register.

"In addition to other impeachable offenses, Trump should be charged with failing to register as a foreign agent under FARA," said Twitter user Connie Gruen.

Dean noticed the tweet and retweeted with his own note that it's "sadly" probably true.

"Sadly, this is probably true," agreed Dean. "Mueller did not investigate if Trump is, in fact, a Russian agent. Barr does not believe a POTUS can be investigated for anything, so the FBI is not. Because he acts like a RU agent Congress should be investigating his consistently pro-RU behavior!"

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