François Hollande pays surprise visit to Afghanistan
Hollande meets Afghan counterpart, Karzai Photo: Reuters
LYON – French President François Hollande made a surprise visit to Afghanistan
Journalists were told on his return that the trip was meant to
confirm his intention to withdraw all French troops from the country by the end
of 2012, as he had stated in the United States a week earlier.
eight-hour visit started in the Kapisa Valley, the area protected by the French
Speaking with French soldiers he confirmed their departure
before the date previously agreed upon.
“Only France can justify France,”
he said, insisting that the withdrawal will take place “with the full knowledge
of our allies.”
Hollande outlined the move to US President Barack Obama
in Washington on May 18, and then to the G8 at Camp David and at the NATO summit
This withdrawal had been pledged in his election platform and
concerns 2,000 of the 3,500-strong French contingent.
personnel remaining will have to bring back thousands of tons of military
equipment, as well as continue to train the Afghan Army.
over lunch in the residence of the Afghan president in Kabul, that the French
presence will carry on but in a “different” manner, and will deal with aspects
such as “civil and economic matters to help the Afghans to become
The Western alliance entered in Afghanistan began in
2001. The objectives were to drive the Taliban from power and to pursue
al-Qaida, which masterminded 9/11.
Some 130,000 foreign soldiers are in
the country: 90,000 Americans, 9,500 Britons, 4,500 Germans, 3,800 Italians,
3,500 French and smaller contingents from other countries. Eighty-three French
soldiers have been killed, with fatalities rising from 10 in 2008 to 26 in
“The menace to our territory coming from Afghanistan, like that to
our allies, has not totally disappeared but is under control,” Holland explained
to the journalists traveling with him.