US President Barack Obama (R) meets with French President Francois Hollande (L) in the Oval Office on Friday, May 18, 2012
Source: Press TV
French President Francois Hollande has met with US President Barack Obama in Washington and announced that he will withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, as originally scheduled.
"The withdrawal is not negotiable. The withdrawal of combat forces is France's decision and this decision will be implemented," Hollande told reporters after talks with Obama in the White House on Friday, AFP reported.
"I am aware that France is part of an alliance, that it has been involved in operations for a long time and must therefore make its decisions in harmony with its allies, including our American partners," he added.
He went on to say that the 3,500 French troops will be pulled out in consultation with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Hollande’s pledge to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was one of his key campaign promises and is thought to have helped him defeat Nicolas Sarkozy.
However, the French leader added, “We will continue to support Afghanistan in a different way. Our support will take a different format.”
Obama did not question Hollande's position but said that NATO countries must uphold their commitment to help "Afghans build security and continue down the path of development."
US-led troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001. Their initial offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues to rise across the country despite the presence of about 130,000 foreign forces.