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Kerry, Karzai bury hatchet in Kabul meeting

Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday pledged cooperation with the United States toward an agreement on letting some U.S. troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014 and on moves toward peace talks with the Taliban.

Karzai made the conciliatory comments standing alongside Secretary of State John Kerry during a news conference. It was in contrast to tensions during Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to Afghanistan this month, when Karzai said attacks by radical Islamists were in the “service of America.”

Kerry and Karzai praised an agreement for yesterday’s handover to Afghan control of the Parwan detention facility outside Kabul, saying negotiations addressed U.S. concerns about the possible release of dangerous detainees. Karzai also said he plans to travel to Qatar for talks that could lead to peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The U.S. is “committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan,” Kerry said. “The road map ahead is going to be very, very clear and very constructive.”

Karzai said comments during Hagel’s visit were misinterpreted to suggest that he had accused the United States of colluding with the Taliban. The Afghan leader said he intended only to stress that insurgent suicide attacks during Hagel’s visit were counterproductive if the radicals intended them to discourage progress toward peace.

Afghans “remain grateful” for U.S. efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and its security forces, Karzai said.

“We’re on the same page,” Kerry said. “I don’t think there’s any disagreement between us.” The U.S. “has no interests except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace,” and it fully supports Afghanistan’s interests and security, he added.

Kerry said Karzai “could not have made more clear his commitment” to free elections in April 2014.

U.S. and Afghan officials are seeking to redefine the terms of their relationship in advance of the planned withdrawal of most U.S. troops by the end of 2014. Obama has yet to say how many troops may stay in Afghanistan after that to support and train Afghans and fight terrorists. The two countries are in talks over the status of those that stay.

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