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Karzai Begins Washington Visit amid Criticism

Aug 20th 2019, 10:20 am
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9 months agoAmerica's ambassador to Kabul says he expects to see "even better alignment" between the U.S. and Afghanistan after this week's visit to Washington by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But Ambassador Karl Eikenberry sidestepped a question at a White House briefing Monday about whether his concerns about Karzai as a leader had been fully allayed.

Said Eikenberry: "He's the elected president of Afghanistan," adding: "Of course I highly respect President Karzai."

Washington wants to attempt to show respect for Karzai this week after some spats when the sometimes mercurial leader reacted negatively to U.S. criticism over corruption and 바카라사이트 other issues.

Karzai arrived Monday for a four day visit in which he is expected to try to sell Americans on the notion that his country is not a lost cause.

The Obama administration, after sidelining Karzai as an ineffective leader, meanwhile will try to bite its tongue and support a politician who holds the key to the U.S. exit from an unpopular war.

Karzai and a large delegation of Cabinet ministers were arriving later Monday for what will mark the Karzai government's widest engagement with U.S. leaders since his re-election in a flawed vote last year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was visiting Afghanistan on Sunday, said Karzai will be received in Washington with "great dignity, great friendship and great candor."

Special Report: Afghanistan

From the U.S. perspective, the week's events are intended to show respect for Karzai, who seems destined to preside over Kabul's eventual political reconciliation with the Taliban as well as the gradual withdrawal of the U.S.-led NATO forces now holding the insurgents at bay.

In an attempt to steal the spotlight from Karzai's trip to Washington, the Taliban threatened to launch a series of attacks across Afghanistan — a claim the defense minister quickly dismissed as insurgent propaganda.

The Taliban said their spring offensive, targeting Afghan and NATO military and staff plus foreign contractors, would begin on Monday — the same day that Karzai begins meetings in Washington. A statement in English posted Saturday on the group's website said the offensive dubbed "al-Faath," which means victory, will include "ambushes, detonations of explosive devices, assassinations of government officials, suicide bombings and detainment of foreign invaders."

Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak dismissed the threat, saying that the Taliban did not have the capability to launch a series of attacks across the nation. Moreover, he said, intelligence reports show many of the Taliban commanders currently are across the border in Pakistan.

"I do believe it is a propaganda campaign rather than a reality," Wardak said.

Behind the genial public facade of the Washington visit, both sides will struggle with deeply divisive issues:

- Karzai presides over a weak central government established with heavy U.S. and European guidance and supported with billions in aid. He is a talented politician and a proven survivor, but has failed to rally Afghans to Kabul's side.

- Karzai's government suffers from endemic corruption, part of Afghanistan's entrenched culture of barter and payoff that the Taliban, warlords and drug rings also exploit. What Washington sees as shameless nepotism or bribery, Afghanistan's powerbrokers see as their due.

- The war, now in its ninth year, remains unpopular in the United States, Europe and in much of Afghanistan itself. Obama accepted the argument for more forces made by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the counterinsurgency expert the president installed to turn the war around last summer. Now U.S. military officials say time is running out for those troops to make a difference. Top military leaders generally give the policy about another year. After that, if the war remains deadlocked in key districts there is little chance of changing the equation.

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