Despite the headlines, French President François Hollande's state visit to Washington, which begins on Feb. 10, will focus heavily on international security issues. Europe is "our principal partner" in seeking global security, according to the Pentagon's strategic guidance. But across the continent, economic strains and disenchantment with military interventions are eroding the political will and defense investments needed to maintain and deploy capable forces. So the United States has a clear interest in supporting an ally that's bucking those trends.
Before his election in May 2012, Hollande seemed an unlikely candidate for special attention by either the White House or the Pentagon. His Socialist Party cohorts -- including current Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius -- had lambasted Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande's predecessor, for reintegrating France into NATO military structures after its 43-year absence. While campaigning, Hollande rashly pledged to withdraw all 3,400 French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. (Under Sarkozy, the French were the third largest European troop contributor, after the British and Germans, and often assumed tough combat missions.)
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