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Karzai’s crucial US tour to mend ties

10 May 2010 0:29

Afghan president begins a four-day visit to the US, seeking to heal the rift between the two countries following his recent blunt criticism of the role of US and its Western allies in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai will hold talks with US President Barak Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates during his Washington visit, billed by a Karzai spokesman as “extremely important.”

More than a dozen Afghan government ministers accompany the president in his high-profile trip, according to a statement by Karzai’s presidential office.

Washington is reported to regard Afghan president’s visit as an important opportunity to show off that the two countries remain in good terms, after relations suffered a major setback following Mr. Karzai’s unusually candid remarks last month blaming Washington and its Western partners for engaging in election fraud in the disputed national poll that eventually led to his victory over Karzai’s Western-backed rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

“This visit is an opportunity to discuss issues related to reintegration and reconciliation with President Karzai and his team so that we have an understanding of what our shared objectives are in this area, and what an Afghan-led process would look like moving forward,” said White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, quoted by The Financial Times Sunday.

With almost nine years into the US-led offensive in Afghanistan, Washington seeks to sooth the resentment over President Karzai’s remarks and to strengthen bilateral ties ahead of a major military operation in Kandahar — a Taliban stronghold – following the redeployment of 50,000 extra troops in Afghanistan.

The war on Afghanistan, spearheaded by the US under the banner of bringing peace and security to the war-ravaged country, has left tens of thousands of civilians dead. Yet the country remains unstable amid growing militancy that reportedly stems from climbing civilian casualties inflected by the US-led forces.

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