The French leader announced the withdrawal during a surprise visit to meet troops stationed in Sarobi district, northeast of Kabul, and to be briefed on progress against the Taliban by a French general.
"It's necessary to end the war," Sarkozy told journalists at the base. "There was never a question of keeping troops in Afghanistan indefinitely."
France has around 4,000 troops deployed in the country, mostly in Sarobi, Kabul, and in northeastern Kapisa province. "We will withdraw a quarter of our troops, that's to say 1,000 men, by the end of 2012," he said. Those remaining in Afghanistan will be concentrated in Kapisa, where they have been deployed since 2008.
"The first group will leave at the end of this year," Sarkozy said, without specifying the magnitude of this "first phase." That withdrawal will be "in consultation with our allies and with the Afghan authorities," he said, as "the situation allows."
The withdrawal announcement came just days after the French leader told a European Union summit that it will follow the U.S.' footsteps in pulling out troops either by the end of this year or early next year. Washington has already declared that it will withdraw all its 33,000 troops by the end of next summer.