Kerry Smooths Afghan Leader’s Ruffled Feathers
(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An unannounced visit to Afghanistan by Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday has apparently reaped some rewards.
Kerry met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an effort to ease tensions between Washington and Kabul.
The plan is still to withdraw virtually all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan sometime in 2014, thus ending a war that will have lasted 13 years.
In the interim, however, the Obama administration still has to contend with Karzai, who at times comes off like a strong ally and other times as if he considers the coalition his enemy. He recently accused the U.S. and the Taliban of being in cahoots.
There was none of that sharp talk on Monday, as Kerry said of the Afghan leader, "You, I think, stand on the brink of a remarkable legacy for having brought Afghanistan through an amazingly difficult time. There are still difficulties ahead; there are still challenges."
Among those challenges is deciding what the U.S. role in Afghanistan will be after the major withdrawal.
In the short term, the U.S. has satisfied Karzai's concern about Monday's transfer of the Parwan Detention Center to Afghan forces, which the U.S. was hesitant about doing since the Afghan government intends to release 30 to 40 "enduring security threats." Details of the agreement weren't released.
As for the alleged collusion between the U.S. and the Taliban, Karzai maintains now that he was misunderstood, telling reporters, "When I say something to this effect, it’s not to offend our allies but to correct the offense. I am the president of this country. It’s my job to provide all the protection I can" for Afghans.
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