KABUL: Afghan forces are ready to take responsibility for security in 2013, the defence ministry said Monday, reacting to a pledge to withdraw French troops early by president-elect Francois Hollande.
"For us a NATO stance is more important than individual decisions by individual nations," ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told.
"And Afghanistan is well prepared to take over all security responsibilities in 2013."
Hollande made a campaign promise to pull French soldiers out of Afghanistan this year, ending his country's combat role two years earlier than NATO's carefully crafted plan to hand security control to Afghans by 2014.
"I believe that, without taking any risks for our troops, it is the right thing to withdraw our combat troops by the end of 2012," Hollande said last week.
A senior Afghan defence official, however, told that a withdrawal would be premature and the pledge appeared to have been aimed at a French audience.
"From a military point of view I think it's not practical to withdraw troops within what's left of 2012," the official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue.
"I think it was rather an election campaign promise than a practical decision. They won't withdraw this year," he said.
Hollande is to meet fellow NATO leaders at a summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in Chicago on May 20-21, just days after his oath of office.
NATO military officials said the alliance had already made contingency plans in the event that Socialist candidate Hollande defeated right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Nevertheless, a diplomat acknowledged that the new leader's stance "was not warmly welcomed" at alliance headquarters.
NATO has some 130,000 troops in Afghanistan helping the government of President Hamid Karzai fight an insurgency by Taliban militants ousted from power in a 2001 US-led invasion. (AFP)