Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I had two reasons to come to Afghanistan today. The first was to address the French troops already present here for more than 10 years, and to tell them that their mission will soon be over, that a transition is under way and that by the end of the year the Afghan army will take possession of the areas today protected by our army.
This transition is being conducted not only in close consultation with our allies, who are themselves engaged in the same process, but also in full cooperation, in full agreement and in full friendship with the Afghan authorities. And – I had confirmation of it this morning – the exchanges between our armies, which are growing more intense every day, will enable us to organize this transition. The second reason for me being here was to meet President Karzai again; I also met him at the Chicago summit to implement the treaty signed in January between my predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, and President Karzai, which will govern our relations over the next few years.
During our lunch, we were able to go into all the details of this operation, which will be partly military. No combat troops will remain in Afghanistan. From January 2013 onwards, there will be trainers supporting Afghan army officers and police officers. We’ll also have a presence at the hospital and the airport. But above all, we want to give our cooperation a civilian, economic dimension.
We discussed education and training. There are establishments here that show the excellence of what France can do; President Karzai emphasized health, and a medicine faculty that could be run by France. We also talked about what we can do in the cultural field, and not only – although it’s very important in itself – in archaeology.
We also have economic opportunities, particularly in three areas: the lived environment, housing – there are considerable possibilities here, given the population of Kabul – the area of energy, renewable energy and oil exploration, and the area of agriculture, because we have techniques we can offer our Afghan friends that will enable them to become self-sufficient again in terms of food.
In short, there’s only a symbolic presence here. We want France to remain in Afghanistan, in a different way from in the past, because we’ve accomplished our mission.
In 2001, a decision was taken in the United Nations framework to come and drive out the Taliban, fight terrorism and enable Afghanistan to regain her sovereignty. This mission is about to be accomplished; that’s a great source of pride for the Afghans and the French.
The whole challenge now is to envisage France’s presence differently, helpfully, with the military cooperation activities that must remain and, above all, the economic and cultural relations that must play their full role, and to ensure our two countries, France and Afghanistan, in accordance with their history – and you mentioned the long history uniting our two nations – can continue to allow the development of democracy, the development of the economy and also a shared culture that can bring us together around a number of values we share. (…)
Let me remind you of the dates, which we’ll be strictly respecting. At the end of 2012, there will be no more French combat troops in Afghanistan and we’ll be repatriating around 2,000 personnel. At the beginning of 2013, and for the first few months, there’ll still be French personnel who will be in charge of sending back our biggest equipment. We’ll of course leave the Afghan army a number of useful items of equipment so it can be in a position to act in the areas we’re going to leave. By the end of the year, the Afghan army in the Kapisa area will be ready to take over our installations and the camp where I was this morning – today there are 600 French soldiers and 600 Afghans, and at the end of the year, the 600 French will be replaced by 600 Afghans with the resources to operate.
In the course of 2013, we’ll clear out our biggest equipment. We’ll do so via the routes suggested to us. We’re already working on this and, still in 2013, we’ll have this cooperation which we defined once again with President Karzai – cooperation on training Afghan army officers, Afghan police officers and cooperation which is going to be broadened, as I said, vis-à-vis the hospital and airport. That’s what we have in mind. So, [we’re going to] leave our experience, leave a number of useful items of equipment and go on working together.
I’m going to answer a question I wasn’t asked, in accordance with an old French tradition. This morning I was with French soldiers, who were familiar with this timetable and conscious of the mission once again entrusted to them, to hand over to the Afghan army, by deadlines which are now known, so that at the end of the year there can be full sovereignty over the Kapisa area. I saw men and women, soldiers, NCOs, officers fully aware of the challenge they have to take up and proud of having carried out their mission and aware that it isn’t over, because it isn’t over; they’ll be in Kapisa until the end of 2012.
And after 2012, there will be others – not those I visited – who will continue training the Afghan army.
And I’m also going to be having a meeting at the Embassy with non-governmental organizations which want France to continue being present in Afghanistan, but with new tasks. We’ve got to ensure two handovers take place – the military handover or transition and the civilian handover – and ensure that our two countries can now envisage the next stage in their relations.
This is why I was extremely pleased to be welcomed by President Karzai, who is a friend of France and who knows that France will always be at his side./.