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Afghan Officials Join US Review of War Strategy


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his government will participate in President Barack Obama's strategic review of the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai announced the agreement after meeting with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Karzai described talks with ambassador Holbrooke as frank, detailed and fruitful and said he looks forward to working with President Obama on reviewing U.S. strategy in the region.

"I am very thankful President Obama has accepted my proposal for Afghanistan joining the strategic review of the war against terrorism in the United States and accordingly the Afghan delegation headed by the minister of foreign affairs Dr. Spanta will visit the United States," Mr. Karzai said.

Richard Holbrooke has been meeting with an array of lawmakers, officials and analysts in Pakistan and Afghanistan on what U.S. officials have described as a fact-finding trip. During his visit to Pakistan last week, officials there announced that they too would participate in the U.S. strategic review.

Holbrooke's trip is expected to help shape recommendations for changing U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan that have failed to counter the Taliban or shore-up the two countries' U.S.-allied governments.

Holbrooke's visit to Kabul also follows months of criticism that Afghanistan's problems are partly due to President Karzai's failure to stem government corruption and strengthen state institutions.

The rampant government corruption has become a prominent issue as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections.

The polls had been expected to be held this spring, but last month election officials said they needed more time for preparation and scheduled the vote for late August. The announcement angered Mr. Karzai's political opponents who had lobbied for an earlier date.

Under Afghanistan's constitution, Mr. Karzai's presidential term ends May 21st and his opponents say Mr. Karzai should step down as president after that date.

Ambassador Holbrooke endorsed the August election timetable without commenting on the controversy over Mr. Karzai's presidential term.

"We stated our strong belief that the electoral commission's decision to have the election on August 20 was appropriate in the context of the conditions in Afghanistan today," Holbrooke said.

During Sunday's appearance before reporters in Kabul, Mr. Karzai also praised a recent agreement between Afghanistan and the U.S. military that aims to increase the role of Afghan forces in conducting raids and house searches. The agreement is aimed at reducing civilian casualties, which have become a source of contention between Mr. Karzai and foreign troops.



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