French President Sarkozy Visits Afghanistan

Making the first-ever trip to Afghanistan by a French president, Nicolas Sarkozy met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday to discuss political and military progress in the war-torn country.

Sarkozy also planned to meet with some of the 1,300 French troops who are mostly stationed in the Kabul region as part of NATO's military force here. The French president's office said the surprise visit would last a day. Other French officials, including the defense minister, also came.

Sarkozy told Karzai that France has a long-term political and military interest in Afghanistan, Karzai's office said in a statement — an apparent signal that French troops would not pull out of the country anytime soon.

The presidents discussed what Karzai's office described as the two main challenges in Afghanistan: insecurity and narcotics. Afghanistan this year accounted for 93 percent of the world's opium production, the main ingredient in heroin.

"They emphasized that there should be lots of work on different issues like energy, irrigation and also in road reconstruction, especially highways," Karzai's office said.

The focus of Sarkozy's trip is to meet with French troops stationed in Kabul, an official at the French Embassy said. He requested anonymity because he was not the official spokesman.

French Defense Minister Herve Morin has expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in some regions of Afghanistan, which has seen its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 6,300 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count.

Morin was accompanying Sarkozy, along with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Human Rights Minister Rama Yade, the president's office said. Sarkozy is the first president of France to visit Afghanistan, Karzai's office said.