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France, Karzai want faster NATO Afghan exit

PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy said France and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will ask NATO to hand over all combat missions in Afghanistan to Afghan troops in 2013 — a year earlier than planned.

Sarkozy also says France has informed U.S. President Barack Obama of the proposal and will present it at a meeting of NATO defense ministers early next month.

The move, if confirmed, comes at a time of widespread fatigue among European contributors to the 10-year allied intervention in Afghanistan, and would accelerate a gradual drawdown of NATO troops that Obama planned to see through until the end of 2014.

"We have decided in a common accord with President Karzai to ask NATO to consider a total handling of NATO combat missions to the Afghan army over the course of 2013," Sarkozy said.

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News of the French-Afghan proposal comes one week after Sarkozy abruptly suspended France's training missions and joint military patrols with Afghan forces following the shooting death of four unarmed French troops by an Afghan soldier on Jan. 20.

Sarkozy announced that the French will resume their training mission as of Saturday and withdraw its own troops by the end of 2013.

With Karzai at his side, Sarkozy also said authority in the strategic province of Kapisa east of Kabul, where nearly all French troops are deployed, will be handed over to the Afghans in March.