His visit was brief but its message was clear. As French soldiers mourn 10 comrades killed in Afghanistan, Nicolas Sarkozy has told the military its mission is essential and must continue.
The French President addressed troops at a base on the outskirts of Kabul.
“Why are we here?” he asked. “Because here we are playing a part in the freedom of the world. Because here the fight against terrorism is being carried out.”
Sarkozy met survivors and visited the mortuary where those killed lay. Their bodies were being repatriated today. Some of the 21 injured when their NATO-led unit was ambushed by the Taliban, just 50 kilometres or so from Kabul, have already arrived back home.
Sarkozy’s visit is a show of support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai who presented his people’s condolences. The French leader has faced criticism at home for his decision in April to send an extra 700 troops to Afghanistan.
Now, after the heaviest death toll for French soldiers in a quarter of a century, some in France are calling for its role in the battle against the resurgent Taliban to be more clearly defined.