France confirmed today it will send up to 1,000 extra troops to fight in Afghanistan.
President Nicolas Sarkozy also said he will decided within a year whether to rejoin Nato more than 30 years after it quit the organisation.
The extra troops will avert the crisis in the Nato force triggered by Canada’s threat to pull its troops out of the dangerous Kandahar province unless they get 1,000 reinforcements from another ally.
France’s combat troops are expected to move into eastern Afghanistan, freeing up US forces to help the Canadians in the south.
Both moves are a sign of Mr Sarkozy’s policy of drawing closer to the Nato alliance, although his speech at the organisation’s summit in Romania also stressed France’s desire to build up the defence role of the European Union.
“We the French want to strengthen our Euro-Atlantic community because it is built on shared values, democratic principles, human rights,” he said.
The deployment in Afghanistan follows months of lobbying by the US to persuade European allies to send more troops to the frontlines of the fight against the Taliban.
“Afghanistan is a strategic issue for international security. It’s central issue for relations between Islam and the West,” Mr Sarkozy said. “It’s essential for the alliance.”
France currently has 1,430 troops serving as part of the 47,000-strong Nato force in Afghanistan.