French, Australian leaders pledge commitment to Afghanistan during visits

The leaders of France and Australia met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, each pledging that their countries were committed to Afghanistan for the long term, as they visited their troops over the holiday period. Making the first-ever visit to Afghanistan by a French president, Nicolas Sarkozy told Karzai that France has a long-term political and military interest in Afghanistan, Karzai's office said in a statement, apparently signaling that French troops would not pull out of the country anytime soon. "We did not want to give the signal of a withdrawal, which would have been a detestable signal at a time when we see the ravages that terrorism can do to the world," Sarkozy said on France-Info radio. Sarkozy said that the "first contribution" of French forces in Afghanistan was to help train the Afghan army and police, and assist in the building of the Afghan state, administration and justice system.