Hagel Meets Karzai After Threats, Friction

Pushes back against Karzai's US-Taliban comments
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2013 3:33 AM CDT
Hagel Meets Karzai After Threats, Friction
Chuck Hagel steps aboard a C-17 military aircraft as he prepares to depart Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 11, 2013 on his way back to Washington.   (AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool)

Chuck Hagel finally did meet privately with Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday before returning to Washington today, and despite the security concerns that initially canceled the meeting, Hagel told the press he and Karzai discussed key issues, the AP reports. "I think he understands where we are and where we've been, and hopefully where we're going together," Hagel said, without giving any details. Both Hagel and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top US commander in Afghanistan, rejected comments Karzai made prior to the meeting in which he accused the US and the Taliban of working together to prove the situation in Afghanistan will deteriorate after most US troops withdraw next year.

Dunford called the comments "categorically false" and said Karzai has never expressed such charges to him personally, but added that tensions are inevitable as withdrawal looms. He added that there is no "broken relationship" or "lack of trust" between the US and Afghanistan. The security threat, as well as the attacks that rocked Afghanistan during Hagel's visit, were just the latest in a series of recent flare-ups in tension between the US and Afghanistan. Both Hagel and Dunford said Karzai's incendiary comments were likely more political than anything else, citing the pressure Karzai is under. But, US officials tell the Wall Street Journal, Hagel "strongly push[ed] back on [the] wildly inaccurate claims" during his meeting with Karzai. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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