WASHINGTON - New French President Francois Hollande told President Barack Obama on Friday that he will stick by his pledge to withdraw France's troops from Afghanistan at year's end, a note of discord in an otherwise convivial first meeting between the two leaders.
"I reminded President Obama that I made a promise to the French people to the effect that our combat troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012," Hollande said after Oval Office talks with Obama.
"That being said, we will continue to support Afghanistan in a different way," he said.
Hollande's remarks, while not a surprise, underscore the challenge Obama faces in keeping NATO allies on board as he tries to chart a gradual course out of Afghanistan. The alliance agreed two years ago to a 2014 deadline for withdrawing most of its combat troops.
The Afghan war will be the central topic when NATO leaders meet in Chicago, Obama's home town, on Sunday and Monday.
The United States may seek at the NATO summit to nudge France to rethink its Afghanistan troop withdrawal timetable, which differs from the alliance's 2014 timetable.