In his first meeting with President Obama, newly minted French President Francois Hollande stood by his campaign pledge to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
"I reminded President Obama that I made a promise to the French people to the effect that our combat troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. That being said, we will continue to support Afghanistan in a different way," Hollande told reporters. Obama welcomed his French counterpart to the White House in advance of the G-8 and NATO summits this weekend.
The new president expressed confidence that France could "find the right means" to "continue and comply" with its international obligations in Afghanistan.
Obama, who plans to remove U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, said they agreed that "even as we transition out of a combat phase in Afghanistan that it's important that we sustain our commitment to helping Afghans build security and continue down the path of development."
Much of today's discussion also centered on the debt crisis in Europe, which both leaders agreed is "an issue of extraordinary importance not only to the people of Europe but also to the world economy," Obama said.
"We're looking forward to a fruitful discussion later this evening and tomorrow with the other G-8 leaders about how we can manage a responsible approach to fiscal consolidation that is coupled with a strong growth agenda," Obama said.
Hollande shared the same view "that Greece must stay in the eurozone and that all of us must do what we can to that effect. There will be elections in Greece, and we wanted to send a message to that effect to the Greek people," he said.
Both leaders affirmed the alliance and friendship between their two nations and seemed to bond over their love of classic American cuisine. The president noted that Hollande spent some time in the U.S. studying American fast food. "Although he decided to go into politics, we'll be interested in his opinions on cheeseburgers in Chicago," Obama said of the upcoming NATO Summit in his hometown.
"I would like to thank President Obama for the knowledge he has of my life before I took office. I will say nothing against cheeseburgers, of course," Hollande replied.
Hollande spent the summer of 1974 driving across the U.S. studying American fast food chains, many of which had not yet made it to France. The new president recently told the New York Times he "could have made a fortune in cheeseburgers, but I finally chose politics." While the experience did not leave Hollande with millions, it did instill in him a love for hamburgers.
"I just want [you] to remember that cheeseburgers go very well with French fries," Obama reminded Hollande with a smile.
"No declaration about French Fries," Hollande joked in response.