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New French president visits Afghanistan

May 24, 2012 | 11:58 pm

French President Francois Hollande made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, days after a NATO summit at which he discomfited allies by insisting that France would pull out its combat troops by the end of the year
KABUL, Afghanistan -- French President Francois Hollande made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday, days after a NATO summit at which he discomfited allies by insisting that France would pull out its combat troops by the end of the year.

The newly inaugurated French leader was meeting with President Hamid Karzai and visiting with French troops, who are mainly deployed in Kapisa province, east of the capital. Earlier this week, at a NATO gathering in Chicago, Hollande said he would adhere to a campaign pledge to pull out French combat troops by the end of this year, two years before the NATO mission is to end.

French public opinion opposing the Afghan war was galvanized by the deaths of four French troops earlier this year in a "green-on-blue" shooting -- one carried out by a member of the Afghan security forces. In the wake of that, Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, had already moved to shorten the French deployment.

Hollande has indicated that some troops may remain beyond year's end in a non-combat capacity. But many troops are wary of continuing in a training role, which requires close contact with Afghan forces.

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-- Laura King

Photo: French President Francois Hollande reviews troops at a base in Kapisa, Afghanistan, where most French troops are stationed. Credit: Joel Saget / AFP/Getty Images

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