France pledges longterm support to Afghanistan

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

france PM fillon 311 (photo credit: AP)
france PM fillon 311
(photo credit: AP)
KABUL - France's prime minister pledged Thursday that hiscountry will remain in Afghanistan "as long as it takes" but added thathe did not foresee any need to increase French troops there.

Asthe US military push in Afghanistan continues to expand, the other 42NATO contributing countries have come under increasing pressure todefine their roles in the country. Some have agreed to send moresoldiers while others have increased or, on the other side, startedsetting deadlines to get out.

French Prime Minister FrancoisFillon and President Hamid Karzai spoke to journalists in the capitalof Kabul after meeting earlier in the day. They discussed the recentinternational conference on Afghanistan in London and the need to pushforward with plans to reconcile Taliban fighters with the government,Fillon said.

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

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

France hasabout 3,750 troops in Afghanistan, most in the mountainous east. Thecountry increased its presence considerably in 2008, Fillon said.

"Wehave a mission to fulfill, the mission that has been negotiated withour allies," Fillon said. "We consider that the resources that we havehere 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.