France pledges longterm support to Afghanistan

We will remain here "for as long as it takes," French PM tells Karzai in Kabul meeting.

February 11, 2010 11:33
1 minute read.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

france PM fillon 311. (photo credit: AP)

KABUL - France's prime minister pledged Thursday that his country will remain in Afghanistan "as long as it takes" but added that he did not foresee any need to increase French troops there.

As the US military push in Afghanistan continues to expand, the other 42 NATO contributing countries have come under increasing pressure to define their roles in the country. Some have agreed to send more soldiers while others have increased or, on the other side, started setting deadlines to get out.

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French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and President Hamid Karzai spoke to journalists in the capital of Kabul after meeting earlier in the day. They discussed the recent international conference on Afghanistan in London and the need to push forward with plans to reconcile Taliban fighters with the government, Fillon said.

France announced an additional $45 million in aid to Afghanistan at that conference.

"The French support is something that you can enjoy and France will remain in Afghanistan for as long as it takes," Fillon said, but added that France has no plans to expand its military effort.

France has about 3,750 troops in Afghanistan, most in the mountainous east. The country increased its presence considerably in 2008, Fillon said.

"We have a mission to fulfill, the mission that has been negotiated with our allies," Fillon said. "We consider that the resources that we have here are sufficient to reach that objective and fulfill that mission."

Karzai praised France's long history of assistance to Afghanistan, noting that it is one of the biggest donors to the country.

"France is an old friend of Afghanistan," Karzai said.

Fillon said he would also be visiting French troops. Embassy officials could not be reached for further comment.

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