French President in First Visit to Afghanistan

French President Francois Hollande arrived in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit to meet French soldiers he has vowed to pull out of the war-torn country by the end of the year, an AFP reporter said.

France’s President Francois Hollande

KABUL — French President Francois Hollande arrived in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit to meet French soldiers he has vowed to pull out of the war-torn country by the end of the year, an AFP reporter said.

It is Hollande's first visit to Afghanistan since taking office earlier this month. He was accompanied by French defence and foreign ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Laurent Fabius, and chief of army staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud.

The French head of state arrived at Kabul airport at around 8:30 am (0400 GMT) on on Friday, at the start of a visit expected to last only a few hours.

Hollande told US President Barack Obama at the G8 summit in Camp David and made it clear at the NATO summit in Chicago that he would not renege on a campaign pledge to repatriate French combat troops a year earlier than planned.

Aides said he was in Afghanistan "to explain himself" to French soldiers why he had decided to hasten their exit from the nearly 11-year war.

There are currently 3,350 French soldiers in Afghanistan. Eighty-three have died since late 2001, when US-led troops invaded to bring down the Taliban regime after the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States.