PARIS – French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday hailed President Barack Obama's speech defining the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as "courageous, determined and lucid" and pledged France's full support for the effort, but stopped short of committing additional French troops.
In a statement, Sarkozy said the U.S. and its allies "will continue to give Afghanistan and its people the necessary military and civil support" but said France's contribution will be examined at an international conference on the violence-wracked Central Asian nation in late January.
France already has nearly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, but media reports say the U.S. has asked France to commit 1,500 additional troops. A report in Monday's Le Monde newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner last week if France could send 1,500 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Sarkozy has previously said that no additional French troops would be sent to Afghanistan, but on Wednesday both he and Kouchner left the door open to a possible new French deployment.
Speaking on France-Info radio, Kouchner said that "we have missions and for the moment, the mission of the French army ... is met." Still, Kouchner added "it the strategy were to change, we would see."
In a speech Tuesday, Obama announced he would deepen the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops to fight the Taliban, and called for additional commitments from U.S. allies. He pledged that the first troops would return by July 2011 and stressed that Afghan forces would be rapidly trained to take over the fight.