France a ‘great, great ally,' White House says, as Afghan policy headache looms

The White House said Friday it was "monitoring" the outcome of France's elections, the results of which could pose fresh challenges for President Barack Obama on issues like the war in Afghanistan.

"We're certainly monitoring it in the sense that we follow the news and France is a great, great ally of the United States and will continue to be so," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

But there's a real chance that a victory by Socialist candidate François Hollande could complicate Obama's policy in Afghanistan. Hollande has vowed to pull France's roughly 3,600 combat troops from that war-torn country by year's end—more quickly than incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, who wants them out at the end of 2013. Hollande led Sarkozy in recent polls ahead of Sunday's first round of voting.

Obama's own approach calls for drawing down to 68,500 American troops by later this year, and he expects a NATO summit in Chicago next month to set out a road map for handing over full security responsibility to Afghan forces next year on the way to a full withdrawal of Western combat forces by the end of 2014. "But our support will not end in 2014. In Chicago, we will agree how NATO will provide the training, assistance and support that your security forces need once transition is complete. And we will play our part in providing the necessary funding to keep those forces strong," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a joint April 12 press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney's campaign did not return an email seeking comment on France's election and its possible impact on Afghanistan.

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