CHICAGO — The United States is confident of France's commitment to NATO regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election, White House officials said Thursday.
"France made a choice to reintegrate fully into NATO under President (Nicolas) Sarkozy," said Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the National Security Council's director of European affairs.
"It's our understanding that, were there to be a change of government in France, the new team would respect that commitment because it has been to France's benefit as well as to the alliance's benefit."
Socialist Francois Hollande, favored to become French president in the May 6 election, has vowed to pull all French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012, one year earlier than Sarkozy had planned.
The NATO alliance has 130,000 US-led troops, including some 3,300 French, fighting to stabilize Afghanistan against a Taliban insurgency with the aim of handing total command of security operations to Afghan forces by 2014.
A Hollande victory could also complicate negotiations at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, set for May 20-21.
"NATO has endured over many decades leaderships of many different political persuasions of the different member states," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.
"Obviously, President Sarkozy has been a tremendous supporter of NATO and a close partner on issues from Libya to the strategic concept and we're confident we'll be able to maintain that momentum going forward."
Rhodes also stressed the close ties between the two nations.
"France has been one of our very closest allies in the world throughout American history and will be going forward I think, whoever the next French leader is," he said.
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