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News and Views

World Leaders Pledge to Stand with Afghanistan

The French, Australian and Italian heads of state traveled to Afghanistan in late December to meet with President Hamid Karzai, assess the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, and discuss the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest early next year.

On December 22, French president Nicolas Sarkozy made history as the first French head of state to travel to Afghanistan. President Sarkozy met with President Karzai to discuss the political and military situation. The French head of state was accompanied by Defense Minister Herve Morin, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Human Rights Minister Rama Yade, who also met with their Afghan counterparts.

Sarkozy told journalists who traveled with him from Paris that the international community must persevere in Afghanistan. "There is a war going on here, a war against terrorism, against fanaticism that we cannot and will not lose," he said. "It is absolutely necessary that Afghanistan does not become a state which falls in the hands of terrorists, as we saw with the Taliban.”

In meetings with President Karzai, the French president said that France has a long-term political and military interest in Afghanistan, and suggested that France could boost its presence in Afghanistan to help the Afghan army and police. President Sarkozy also met with some of the 1,300 French troops stationed in the Kabul region as part of NATO's 41,000-strong International Security Assistance Force.

Hours after his meeting with Sarkozy, Karzai met with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who announced that Australia will be in Afghanistan for the “long haul”, during his first State visit to Afghanistan.  “Over the next several months, I would also be encouraging other friends and partners and allies in Nato to continue their commitments to this country and where possible extend them,” said Prime Minister Rudd. The Prime Minister also announced a new commitment in economic aid of $95 million over the next two years and visited Australian troops based in Uruzgan province. President Karzai thanked Australia for its crucial reconstruction and security work in the restive province.

Later that day, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi met with President Karzai. "I thanked our soldiers, our administrators, all of the Italians present here, because their work is truly precious," Prime Minister Prodi told reporters. "It's a contribution to peace, not just for this country but for the whole region." Prime Minister Prodi also met with a contingent of Italian troops based in Herat. This was the Italian Prime Minister’s first visit to Afghanistan.

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