Sunday, December 23, 2007

France, Australia to remain in Afghanistan as long as needed

There seems to be a big push propoganda-wise and otherwise to prop up the NATO mission in Afghanistan in the face of public opposition to the missions in many countries. Sarkozy is already a Bush buddy on many issues but Rudd has differences on Iraq and Kyoto. However, there are signs he wants to mollify Bush. Harper of course is gung ho for Afghanistan. His appointed or annointed panel will no doubt recommend something to his liking. It is in fact a sham and waste of time as the article I posted recently shows.

France, Australia vow to remain in Afghanistan as long as needed
Last Updated: Saturday, December 22, 2007 | 6:17 PM ET
CBC News
The new leaders of France and Australia toured Afghanistan separately on Saturday, with both men vowing to keep their troops in the war-torn country for as long as needed.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was elected in May, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and told the Afghan leader that France has no plans to withdraw its 1,300 troops from Afghanistan.

A year ago, France withdrew 200 elite special forces from the country, raising questions about whether then president Jacques Chirac planned on withdrawing the entire French contingent.

Sarkozy told French media on Saturday that that is not the case.

"We did not want to give the signal of a withdrawal, which would have been a detestable signal at a time when we see the ravages that terrorism can do to the world," said Sarkozy, who was in Afghanistan for only six hours.

He suggested France might be sending combat instructors to the country soon to help train Afghan army and police officers.

"Afghanistan must not become a state that falls into the hands of terrorists," Sarkozy said. "A war, a war against terrorism, against fanaticism, is being played out here, that we cannot, that we must not lose."

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also met with Karzai in Kabul. He said his country's 900 troops will remain in Afghanistan, even though Australia will pull its troops from Iraq by the middle of next year.

"We will be, as I said before, in this country, Afghanistan, for the long haul, and it's important for us to be here in partnership with countries from NATO," said Rudd, who was elected in November.

He said he would be encouraging other countries to continue or expand their commitment to Afghanistan and would be giving an aid package of $95 million US to reconstruction in the southern Uruzgan province, a volatile region where Australia's troops are stationed.

Australia and France's troops make up only a small portion of the more than 41,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The U.S. contributes a bulk of the force, with some 26,000 Americans stationed in the country. Canada has about 2,500 soldiers in the country, most of them serving in the violent south.

Canada, the U.S. and NATO officials have complained that some NATO countries aren't sharing as much of the responsibility in Afghanistan as others.

France, for example, has been criticized for keeping its troops in relatively peaceful parts of Afghanistan, while others countries, like Canada, are serving in provinces where violence occurs regularly and casualties are a frequent reality.

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