The NewsFuror

Saturday, December 22, 2007

French president in Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai (left) with Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of their talks in Kabul - 22/12/07
The French president (right) was greeted by his Afghan counterpart
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has held talks in Kabul with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, on a one-day visit to the country.

He said afterwards it was imperative that Afghanistan should "not become a state which falls in the hands of terrorists... [like] the Taleban".

Mr Sarkozy is also due to see some of the 1,300 French troops based locally.

On a recent visit to Washington, Mr Sarkozy pledged France's support for the US in Afghanistan.

The French presidential palace said that Saturday's visit would "reaffirm France's support and engagement in the process of the stabilisation and reconstruction of Afghanistan".

Accompanied by his defence minister, he began his visit with talks with the head of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, Gen Dan McNeill.

Pressure from allies

Mr Sarkozy told the US Congress in November that French soldiers would stay in Afghanistan "as long as needed" and that failure was "not an option".

A French Mirage 2000 D jet stationed in Kandahar
Six French combat jets are stationed at Kandahar

However, Washington and other allies have repeatedly urged France to send its forces to the more dangerous southern and eastern areas to help in the fight against a resurgent Taleban.

"Here there is a war against terrorism, against fanaticism, that we cannot and must not lose," Mr Sarkozy told reporters after his talks with Mr Karzai.

"That is why it is important that we help with the emergence of an Afghan state that is legitimate, democratic and modern.

Most of the French troops are stationed in relatively secure areas around Kabul.

Some are deployed at a base in the southern city of Kandahar, where six French Mirage jets are based.

In addition, "dozens" of French military trainers are due to be posted to the volatile southern province of Uruzgan to work with the Afghan army, the French news agency AFP notes.

Accompanying Mr Sarkozy on the visit are French Defence Minister Herve Morin and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.