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US, Afghanistan, Reaffirm Partnership after Discord

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai speaks to the public about US/Afghanistan relations at the State Department in Washington, 11 May 2010
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai speaks to the public about US/Afghanistan relations at the State Department in Washington, 11 May 2010

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Senior U.S. and Afghan officials have reaffirmed ties of partnership in a Washington dialogue aimed at repairing a strained relationship. Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets President Barack Obama at the White House Wednesday.

President Mr. Karzai received a warm welcome at the State Department.

U.S.-Afghan relations have been strained recently over U.S. criticism of alleged high-level corruption in the Afghan government and fraud charges that marred Mr. Karzai's re-election last year.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials have complained about civilian casualties from U.S.-led military operations against the Taliban. And they have expressed concern that the pullout of U.S. troops beginning in July of next year might mean the abandonment of the Kabul government.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan will endure, and she praised the wartime sacrifices of Afghanistan's people and government.  

"I believe strongly that the story of what has happened in Afghanistan in the last several years is such a positive one," said Clinton.  "The people of Afghanistan have endured conditions that over decades seemed almost insurmountable. And we know that there must be a concerted commitment that we are willing to undertake - patience, persistence, partnership."

For his part, President Karzai stressed his country's gratitude for U.S. military and financial support.  That was underlined by his visit to Washington's Walter Reed Army Hospital to see wounded American soldiers.  He said the experience left him at a loss for words.

"[Seeing the wounded soldiers] was a moment of immense thinking for me as a person," Karzai explained.  "And I did not know at the moment how to describe my feelings in the appropriate words - of gratitude, of recognition, and of appreciation.  And indeed of what it takes to succeed against an enemy that is not only the enemy of soldiers, but of our children, our teachers and society as a whole."

Mr. Karzai said the U.S.-Afghan relationship is at times "difficult and quarrelsome," but also steady and strong.

Clinton said the two sides are working on plans to finalize a "strategic partnership declaration" later this year that will put U.S. relations with Afghanistan on the same footing with other key allies.

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