Minister of Defence,
This is the fourth occasion on which we have met President Karzai, whom we regard with esteem and respect. We spoke at length of the tragedy in Gwan, where four French soldiers were murdered.
This is what President Karzai and I agreed today:
Firstly: Taliban infiltration into the Afghan army, the cause of the tragic deaths of our soldiers, is a serious and previously underestimated threat.
All its implications must be considered, and the conditions in which the training mission is being carried out must be reviewed in detail and our troops’ security decisively strengthened.
President Karzai gave a commitment to make every possible effort to achieve this. Our defence ministers have been tasked with implementing the extra protective measures decided upon.
We will ask NATO to examine as a matter of urgency the issue of infiltration into the Afghan army and police, as it affects our entire strategy of handing over to Afghan forces and concerns all the allies.
Now that we have received the assurances we requested, the training missions performed by French military personnel will resume tomorrow.
Secondly, President Karzai – for which I thank him – assured us that responsibility for Kapisa Province, where the French contingent is based, will be transferred to Afghan forces as of March.
Thirdly, in mutual agreement with President Karzai, we decided to ask NATO to consider transferring full responsibility for NATO combat missions to the Afghan army during 2013.
The French government will present a proposal for this at the NATO defence ministers’ meeting on 2 and 3 February.
For France, continuation of the transition and the gradual transfer of combat responsibilities will enable us to plan for the return of all our combat troops by the end of 2013.
Our troops have been returning since the NATO summit in November 2010. Last year, 400 soldiers returned to France. By the end of 2012, given the progress achieved on the transition and in agreement with President Karzai, a further 1,000 troops will leave Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of our combat troops, France will continue to be involved in training Afghan soldiers, subject to the security conditions to which I have referred.
Lastly, we have just signed a treaty between France and Afghanistan.
This treaty lays down arrangements for bilateral cooperation between our two countries in areas essential to the future development of Afghanistan: agriculture, health, education, institutions and infrastructure. This is the concrete expression of France’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan. We support Afghan democracy. A new chapter is now beginning for the Afghan people in which civilian and development projects will gradually take over from our military presence.
For example, we are already working on the French Mother and Child Hospital in Kabul, on the creation of a network of secondary schools for agricultural training, on a partnership between our geological services to develop Afghanistan’s considerable mining resources and on support for the creation of an Afghan gendarmerie.
It is clear that the future of French-Afghan cooperation will be one of civil, economic, diplomatic and political cooperation. Our military cooperation will be through logistical and training support. We remain engaged alongside our Afghan friends, but the security of Afghanistan – which is our desire, which we believe is in their interests and which is also President Karzai’s conviction – is first and foremost a matter for the Afghans.
Thank you, Mr President./.