Q. – Why did you decide to go to Afghanistan, which still hasn’t re-elected its president?
THE MINISTER – The visit was scheduled a long time ago. It became necessary because of the political logjam and because the presidential election result was increasingly uncertain and fraud was obvious.
When we arrived, on behalf of France and the European Union, and we met John Kerry, the situation was deadlocked: President Karzai was refusing to recognize the results as seemingly corrected by the [electoral] complaints commission.
Q. – What did you get at the practical level?
THE MINISTER – After meeting both President Karzai and Dr Abdullah twice, as well as the Americans and UN representative, we got President Karzai to promise to honour the result, regardless of what it is, agree to a programme of reforms and work with Dr Abdullah.
Q. – Gordon Brown has announced the sending of a further 500 British soldiers to Afghanistan. Is France ready to send additional troops?
THE MINISTER – France did this when we took charge of the Sarobi district and Kapisa province, east of Kabul. On 1 November, the bulk of our troops will be regrouped in this area of responsibility assigned by NATO. We’ve got enough soldiers to carry out our mission. We won’t increase our contingent.
On the other hand, we have increased our civilian aid for Afghanistan. A very high proportion of our assistance to the Afghan people is now going to this region, which had, until now, been left out of the international aid effort.
What’s important is to work alongside the Afghans, give them confidence so that they can themselves retake control of their military and economic destiny. We aren’t waging war on the Afghans!
Q. – Has France still got enough influence in the world to be able to play a leading role here?
THE MINISTER – France has great influence: at any rate, that’s what the Americans told me yesterday in Kabul. I believe that the whole world recognizes that French diplomacy has regained its full position. Admittedly, the disproportion between the number of our troops and the Americans’ is obvious. We’ve got almost 4,000 soldiers for this operation in Afghanistan, the Americans have 70,000./.