The French military completed an important step in its accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan on Tuesday as it pulled out of a district outside Kabul.
Control of the district of Surobi, east of Kabul, passed to Afghan forces in April but the French formally left on Tuesday after a short flag-lowering ceremony.
The pullout leaves French forces deployed only in the Afghan capital and in Kapisa, an extremely unstable province where French troops have suffered numerous deadly attacks from the Taliban.
Earlier this month the French military handed control of Kapisa to local forces, but French soldiers will continue to help train them as preparations for the pullout go ahead.
France is the fifth largest contributor to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is due to pull out the vast majority of its 130,000 forces by the end of 2014.
Before his election in May, French President Francois Hollande vowed to speed up France's pullout so it would be completed by the end of 2012 -- a year earlier than Paris initially planned and two years before the NATO deadline.
Under Paris's timetable, of the 3,000 French soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan, 1,400 will remain after the end of 2012 to oversee the return of equipment and train local forces.
At least 87 French soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, the vast majority in Kapisa.
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