Hollande to visit Afghanistan

Hollande to visit Afghanistan

France's new president Francois Hollande arrived in Afghanistan today to meet troops, the country's president and discuss plans for an early pull-out.

Mr Hollande's office confirmed the arrival in a statement. The trip was not announced in advance for security reasons.

He will meet some of the 3,300 French troops in Afghanistan and Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Mr 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.

His conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy had already moved up the pull-out plan to 2013 after French troops were killed by an Afghan they were training and amid increasing French disillusionment with the war.

Tension over Mr 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.

Mr Hollande has suggested non-combat troops may remain beyond December 31.

French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and foreign minister Laurent Fabius are also in Kabul with Mr Hollande.

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