BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - French forces based in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan for operations in Afghanistan will pull out of the country in October, officials said Wednesday.
About 400 French troops, along with six Mirage fighter jets, have been part of the more than 1,800 anti-terrorist coalition forces based since December at Manas airport, located near the capital Bishkek. They are part of an unprecedented deployment of foreign troops in former Soviet territory in Central Asia; Uzbekistan is also hosting foreign troops at an air base.
French Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Serge Smessow praised the deployment as having injected more then dlrs 8.5 million into the local economy.
"If you had told me 10 years ago that French forces would be based in Kyrgyzstan, I would've called you mad or drunk," Smessow said.
He said the French would be replaced by troops from Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.
Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbayev thanked the French and also praised their contribution to the economy.
The French officials said their forces could return to Kyrgyzstan, depending on the security situation.
Associated Press, July 31, 2002