Paris: France’s new President Francois Hollande arrived early Friday in Afghanistan to meet with troops and the country’s president and discuss plans for an early pullout.
Hollande’s office confirmed the arrival in a statement. The trip was not announced in advance for security reasons.
Hollande will meet with some of the 3,300 French troops in Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the statement said.
Hollande announced plans at a NATO summit this week to pull out French troops by the end of the year, well ahead of the alliance’s 2014 withdrawal date.
Hollande’s conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy had already moved up the pullout plan to 2013 after French troops were killed by an Afghan they were training, and amid increasing French disillusionment with the war.
Tension over Hollande’s pledge to end his country’s combat mission two years early infused the NATO summit in Chicago, and unleashed fears of a domino effect of other allies withdrawing early. Hollande has suggested noncombat troops may remain beyond 31 December.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius are also in Kabul with Hollande.