Hollande stands by pledge to withdraw forces from Afghanistan by 2012

xinhuanet.com 19-May-2012

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U.S. President Barack Obama meets with French President Francois Hollande in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, May 18, 2012, in advance of the G8 and NATO Summits to discuss cooperation on the global economy and Afghanistan. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Visiting French President Francois Hollande said at the White House on Friday that he stood by the pledge to withdraw French forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.

"I recalled to President Obama that I had made a promise to withdraw our combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2012," Hollande said after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

But he also noted that France will support Afghanistan "in another form" after the pullout of its troops.

During his election campaign, the newly elected Hollande pledged to withdraw French combat troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2012, two years earlier than the NATO calendar. But there are signs that he may now take a more nuanced line.

Hollande, after attending the G8 summit at Camp David, will go to Chicago for the NATO summit slated for May 20-21, where the decade-old war in Afghanistan will dominate the agenda.

The NATO summit is expected to iron out details of an exit strategy from the war-torn country, under which Afghan forces are expected to take the security lead by the end of 2014 after most American and NATO combat troops leave.