French President François Hollande has wasted no time in taking his message of an early French withdrawal to Afghanistan, and in person.
He flew in on a surprise, lightning visit for a few hours to meet French troops at their base north-east of Kabul, and to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Hollande was accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“Our withdrawal will be orderly and co-ordinated. More than 2000 of you will be back in France before the year’s end. It’s a big challenge to organise and in logistical terms. As the General has said, it’s a real operation, and there will be risks,” said Hollande.
Hollande was criticised last weekend at the NATO summit for speeding up France’s pullout, already brought forward by a year to 2013 by predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. However he promised President Karzai continued development support.