France will redeploy six Mirage jets currently stationed in Tajikistan to a NATO base in Afghanistan, Defense Ministry officials said /br /The redeployment, along with a planned increase in French troops in Afghanistan, comes as new President Nicolas Sarkozy seeks to improve ties with the United States and boost France’s visibility on the world /br /Cmdr. Christophe Prazuck said the planes, based in Dushanbe, are to be transferred to Kandahar, in the troubled south of Afghanistan. Three of the planes — designed to support ground troops — are to be transferred in late September, while three others — equipped for surveillance missions — are slated to move in mid-October, Prazuck /br /Some 150 personnel, including the jets’ pilots and technical crew, are also to be transferred to Afghanistan, Prazuck said. About 300-350 servicemen will remain in Dushanbe to help with transportation to Afghanistan, said the first councilor of the French Embassy in Tajikistan, Olivier /br /The Mirages are part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan. The transfer will allow the planes to spend more time patrolling southern Afghanistan — a Taliban stronghold — by eliminating the two-hour flight time to and from /br /pPrazuck said there was a need to “bring (the planes) closer to the zones of action.” He said “there is no change in the mission or the means.”/p pSome 11,000 troops, including Americans, British, Australian, Canadian and Afghan soldiers, are stationed at the Kandahar base./p pBefore the redeployment, French Defense Minister Herve Morin plans to visit Afghanistan Sept. 7-8, Prazuck said./p pEarlier this week, Sarkozy announced he would send about 150 additional troops to Afghanistan to train the Afghan army, ending months of speculation about France’s commitment to the international force./p pFrance has about 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. The additional French troops are to arrive in the country by the end of the year./p

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