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Afghans 'Ready' To Take Over From French

Afghan National Army troops in Kabul
KABUL -- The Afghan government says Afghan security forces are ready to fill any vacuum caused by the possible early withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.

The announcement May 7 follows French President-elect Francois Hollande's pledge to withdraw France's 3,300 troops by the end of 2012.

Such a withdrawal would end France's combat role two years earlier than called for under an official NATO timetable, which says full security control is to be handed over to Afghans by 2014.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that Afghan forces could "easily" fill any security vacuum left by the withdrawal of French troops.

Hollande has said he will raise the issue with other NATO leaders at a Chicago summit on May 20-21.

With additional reporting by AFP