Kerry, Karzai Meet Again to Try and Smooth Relations

Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013 04:15 AM

 

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KABUL — Secretary of State John Kerry met again Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after they put on a show of unity as they tried to end recent bickering over anti-American comments made by the Afghan leader.

Kerry was also holding a series of meetings Tuesday at the American Embassy in Kabul before wrapping up his short visit. He was meeting participants in a U.S.-backed women's entrepreneurship program as well as civic leaders playing a role in preparing for Afghanistan's 2014 elections.

Earlier Tuesday, eight suicide bombers attacked a police headquarters in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing five officers and wounding four, police said. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Kerry arrived Monday in Kabul amid concerns that Karzai may be jeopardizing progress in the war against extremism with his rhetoric.

Karzai infuriated U.S. officials earlier this month by accusing Washington of colluding with Taliban insurgents to keep Afghanistan weak even as the Obama administration pressed ahead with plans to hand off security responsibility to Afghan forces and end NATO's combat mission by the end of next year.

After a private meeting, Kerry said he had asked Karzai about the comments and was very satisfied with the president's explanation. He said the two countries were on the same page as international forces prepare to end combat operations in 2014.

At a joint news conference after his talks with Kerry, Karzai told reporters his comments in a nationally televised speech had been misinterpreted by the media. Kerry demurred on that point but said people sometimes say things in public that reflect ideas they have heard from others but don't necessarily agree with.

"I am confident the president [Karzai] does not believe the U.S. has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace and that we are completely cooperative with the government of Afghanistan with respect to the protection of their efforts and their people," Kerry said.

For his part, Karzai said he had been trying to make the point in his speech that if the Taliban really wanted foreign troops out of Afghanistan they should stop killing people.

As Kerry flew to Kabul on Monday, the U.S. military ceded control of the Parwan detention facility near Bagram, a year after the two sides initially agreed on the transfer. Karzai had demanded control of Parwan as a matter of national sovereignty.

The long-running dispute over the center had thrown a pall over ongoing negotiations for a bilateral security agreement to govern the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014. Both Kerry and Karzai lauded the transfer of the facility.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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