May 11th, 2010
09:42 AM ET
4 years ago

Putting tensions aside, Clinton opens key talks with Karzai

ALT TEXT

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington Tuesday meeting with members of the Obama administration. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - Brushing recent public spats aside, the Obama administration welcomed Hamid Karzai to Washington Tuesday, opening a round of partnership talks with the Afghan president.

At a breakfast meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Karzai for several days of partnership talks. Later Tuesday, Clinton is expected to hold closed-door bilateral talks with Karzai. President Barack Obama will host his Afghan counterpart at the White House on Wednesday.

Clinton said Tuesday that the United States' commitment to Afghanistan remains strong and will continue long after U.S. combat troops have withdrawn.

But she said it was unrealistic to expect the two nations to see eye to eye on every issue.

"President Obama and President Karzai both understand that the ability to disagree on issues of importance is not an obstacle to achieving our shared objectives but rather it reflects a level of trust," she said.

Karzai expressed thanks on behalf of the Afghan nation to the American people for the sacrifices they have made there. He said Afghanistan will remain a dependable partner with United States and its allies in the global war on terror.

However, he also acknowledged the recent rift.

"As two mature nations and two mature governments - by now the Afghan government is mature, too - we will have disagreements time to time but that is a sign of a mature relationship, and a steady relationship."

Karzai's first visit to Washington after his re-election comes after prickly talk centering on the Afghan president's ability to reign in corruption and institute good governance practices.

Karzai was handed a victory in last August's national vote, marred by irregularities that forced a runoff. Since then, the Obama administration has publicly pressured Karzai to rid his government of graft and improve delivery of services to the Afghan people.

Karzai irritated U.S. officials when he blamed election fraud on foreigners who want a "puppet government" in Afghanistan. He further aggravated his most powerful ally when he told tribal leaders that the U.S.-led military alliance would not move against Taliban fighters in Kandahar "until you say we can."

Media reports have also included harsh criticism of Karzai by a former United Nations diplomat as well as claims that Karzai said he would consider joining the Taliban insurgency.

At one point, the White House indicated it would call off this week's visit.

But in recent weeks, the United States and Afghanistan have sought to play down their differences, rejecting the idea of any dispute between its leaders.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry noted Monday that there have been "ups and downs" in the relationship with Karzai.

He said he expects the United States and Afghanistan "to be able to work our way through difficulties and come back together and still find ourselves well-aligned" as a result of Karzai's talks with Obama.

"There will be serious dialogues in the days ahead on far-ranging issues, including how to best deliver on our government's commitment to help accelerate the strengthening of Afghan security and judicial institutions," Eikenberry said.

Asked if Karzai is a dependable partner for the United States, Eikenberry responded that he is the elected president of a close friend and ally. At the same time, he said Karzai's government must improve transparency and accountability, and that those issues will be discussed this week.

"The United States government, I know our administration, is in full support of President Karzai's efforts right now to make improvements there," Eikenberry said. "Much has to be done."

Karzai's visit also comes as questions arise about the timing of a planned U.S.-led military offensive on the Kandahar area that is the spiritual center of the Taliban.

U.S. military leaders acknowledged challenges to the eventual goal of turning over security to the Afghans.

"We will encounter increased violence as our combined security forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the allied military leader.

McChrystal offered no specifics on when the offensive might start, but said securing control of the region is a goal of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

"Our strategic priority is a development of the Afghan National Army and police, the forces that will ultimately secure Afghanistan," he said. "Much work lies ahead to mature this force, but its growth is largely on track."

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    Don't forget to ask Hamid Karzai how the poppy crop looks this year. Should be a banner year for heroin profits. These profits support many of the US covert operation interests.
    Organized Crime, Afghan President and The US Government very difficult to tell the difference anymore.
    As Michael Corleone says, "Now whose being naive Kay?"

    May 11, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. CECI

    As a mother of a U.S. Soldier-I have lost my patience for this individual and his government and the corruption that exists. Bring our sons and daughters home...that country cant have them anymore!

    May 11, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  3. Dano

    I find it a bit ironic that "the Obama administration has publicly pressured Karzai to rid his government of graft ..." , when in America government graft occurs on a regular basis. It's called campaign contributions here but it achieves the same results; the biggest contributors get the most access to politicians and the most favorable votes from them. Why else do you think any person or political party would spend millions of dollars to win a position that pays only thousands??

    May 11, 2010 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. jeff jackson, alabama

    CNN, when Bush was President
    you ran stories of death in Iraq
    24/7. One hundred people were
    recently killed in Iraq and just a
    passing story that got no more
    press than a tornado out west.
    Is it a matter of who the President
    is at the time as to how important
    deaths in a war are ?
    You know we are still at war but
    you seem to go out of your way to
    distance this President from carnage
    in Iraq. Is that your fair and balanced
    reporting ?

    May 11, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. jeff jackson, alabama

    Hey CNN, have you forgotten Iraq?
    This Karzai story is worth reporting
    but where is all the negative coverage
    about the deaths in Iraq you ran
    with when Bush was President ?
    We still have troops in Iraq, CNN.

    May 11, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Karzai is a wolf in sheeps clothing .

    May 11, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. chuck

    It must take him four hours to get dressed in the morning. He reminds me of the pompous king in "The Emperor's New Clothes".

    May 11, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. rachel

    I hope Karzi doesn't blow it, I wonder who in the administration started popping off at the mouth, Hillary has dealt with Karzi before so hope she is able to tell him to cool his jets and the crazy talk.

    May 11, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  9. jeff jackson, alabama

    Hey CNN, do you think these
    meetings with Karzai will induce
    the Afghan people to be loyal to
    the U.S. while our troops are dying
    on two fronts ?
    Do you think we will treat Karzai to
    $10. wine or $100. wine in these
    meetings?
    Why all the softball approach in your
    reporting ?
    Where's the old hardball CNN ?

    May 11, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. rita

    This is the first time I have heard him mention the sacrifices that the American military has made for his country. I am still waiting for Maliki to do so. Karzai must really be trying to backtrack from revealing his true colors recently in front of his Afghan constituents. This conceited and pompous man who stole a recent election is a black eye for America and Afghanistan. I don't think he really understands and appreciates the sacrifices of the American military or their role in elevating him into the history books. He is a mafia don and is only missing some bling bling to complete his persona.

    May 11, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. thor

    This is Karzai,the same person that said the US was meddling in Afghanistan's affairs .He also stoled the election from his own people.His government is very corrupt.Now our leaders are cozying up to this person like he's the best thing sinse "apple pie" Sad. We need to bring our troops home and leave this dirt pile of a country alone.

    May 11, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. Michael

    Karzai really is in a tough position: a working relationship with Sec. Clinton is key to his survival, yet he represents a nation of which only 3 out of 10 men can even read, and where speaking to a woman as an equal translates into a loss of face (if not outright blasphemy) and provokes rebellion.
    Hopefully Karzai & Co. can get their knuckles far enough off the ground so as not to trip over them.

    May 11, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |