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Kerry in Afghanistan to prod Karzai on future ties

Updated: March 25, 2013, 6:46 PM IST
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Kerry in Afghanistan to prod Karzai on future ties
US Secretary of State John Kerry has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to pacify President Hamid Karzai.

Kabul: US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Afghanistan on an unannounced visit on Monday to see President Hamid Karzai amid concerns the Afghan President may be jeopardising progress in the war against extremism with his anti-American rhetoric.

He arrived shortly after the US military ceded control of its last detention facility in Afghanistan, ending a longstanding irritant in relations.

Kerry arrived in the Afghan capital for a 24-hour visit, during which he will meet Karzai, civic leaders and others to discuss continued US assistance to the country and how to wean it from such aid as the international military operation winds down, and upcoming national elections.

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

US officials accompanying Kerry said he did not plan to lecture Karzai or dwell on the apparent animosity but would make clear once again that the US did not take such allegations lightly.

They said he would press Karzai on the need for May's elections to meet international standards and continue to stress the importance of Afghan reconciliation and US support for a Taliban office in Qatar where talks could occur.

Karzai is expected to travel to Qatar within the week and some movement on the opening of an office is likely then.

Kerry, who arrived in Kabul from Amman, Jordan, had hoped also to travel to Pakistan on his trip to the region but put it off due to elections there. Instead, he met late Sunday in Amman with Pakistani army chief for Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, officials said.

The pair had a private dinner at the residence of the US ambassador to Jordan as Pakistan continued to seethe in the aftermath of the return from exile to the country of former president Pervez Musharraf, himself a former army chief.

Earlier today, the US military ceded control of the Parwan last detention facility near the US-run Bagram military base north of Kabul, a year after the two sides initially agreed on the transfer. Karzai demanded control of Parwan as a matter of national sovereignty.

The top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Joseph Dunford, handed over Parwan at a ceremony there after signing an agreement with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi. "This ceremony highlights an increasingly confident, capable and sovereign Afghanistan," Dunford said.

First Published: March 25, 2013, 6:46 PM IST
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