Obama, Hollande talk troops, Chicago cheeseburgers
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporteremail@example.com May 18, 2012 2:58PM
President Barack Obama meets with French President Francois Hollande, Friday, May 18, 2012, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:09PM
On the menu at the White House Friday morning as President Obama held his first meeting with new Socialist French President Francois Hollande was foreign policy — with a side of Chicago sliders.
“I was interested, when I was reading the President’s biography, that he actually spent some time in the United States in his youth, studying American fast food, and although he decided to go into politics, we’ll be interested in his opinions of cheeseburgers in Chicago,” Obama said to laughter.
No fool on this issue, Hollande replied, “I will say nothing against cheeseburgers, of course.”
“I just want to remember that cheeseburgers go very well with French fries,” Obama told Hollande to more laughter.
Hollande’s election two weeks ago complicates the planned troop withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan. NATO members and partners are ironing out an agreement they hope to sign Monday in Chicago that will have member countries pull combat troops out by 2014 and leaving development-oriented support staff there until 2024.
Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy was on board with that.
But Hollande ran on a platform of pulling French troops out this year. He emerged from his Oval Office meeting with Obama Friday saying he had not changed his mind.
“I reminded President Obama that I made a promise to the French people to the effect that our combat troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012,” Hollande said. “That being said, we will continue to support Afghanistan in a different way, our support will take a different format...And so we will continue and comply with our commitment to that country, and supply and support, as I said, in a different way.
“We will discuss that further in Chicago, and I’m pretty sure I will find the right means so that our allies can continue with their mission, and at the same time I can comply to the promise I made to the French people.”
Obama tried to focus on the positive, saying, “we 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.”
From there, the two leaders headed to the G-8 meeting in Camp David, Md. They are due in Chicago Saturday for the NATO summit.