US, Afghanistan Reaffirm Partnership After Discord
US, Afghanistan Reaffirm Partnership After Discord

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai Thursday hailed the results of this week's ministerial-level U.S.-Afghan dialogue. Mr. Karzai says it produced agreements including one for the transfer of allied-run military detention centers in his country to Afghan control.

Officials on both sides say the three days of talks improved the tone of a relationship that had soured in recent months amid acrimonious exchanges among U.S. and Afghan officials.

At a joint appearance with Mr. Karzai at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Secretary Clinton called the visit highly successful, and said the substantive discussions took the relationship to an even higher level.

For his part Mr. Karzai said the strategic partnership, to be mapped out in a joint declaration by year's end, will transcend current military operations and endure long after the current generation of political leaders have left the scene.

In terms of tangible take-aways from the dialogue, Mr. Karzai said the U.S. side pledged to work to curb civilian casualties in allied military operations against the Taliban, and to reduce nighttime combat operations.

He said that military detention centers now run by U.S. and coalition forces, where there have been charges of detainee abuses, will soon revert to Afghan control.

"We have agreed that there will be a transition of detention centers to the Afghan authority in January of next year, the first of January next year," said President Karzai. "And that will be as soon as we are in Kabul assigning senior teams on both sides to work [out] exact timelines for the complete transfer of detention centers."

Clinton reiterated the Obama administration's intention to begin a conditions-based transfer of security responsibility from allied to Afghan forces next July, but said the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan will not diminish.

"We see the July 2011 date as another date to aim for," said Secretary Clinton. "And we believe that it can be the beginning of the security transition. The enduring partnership will last long beyond any security transition, any withdrawal of combat forces over time. We are committed to a strategic partnership with Afghanistan."

Mr. Karzai said he hoped Afghan forces can assume security responsibility for the entire country by the time his current term in office ends.

"We are planning in Afghanistan to prepare ourselves, in the form of the army and police and other institutions of the Afghan state, to be able to provide for the security of the Afghan people in parts of the country where we can't right now in the next two to three years, and to expand that, extend that, to the entire country by 2014, by the time my term in office in completed," he said. "So we are preparing ourselves for a takeover of security so we are no longer a burden on the United States and our other allies."

Mr. Karzai, who has expressed gratitude in Washington for the sacrifices of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, paid a visit Thursday to Arlington National Cemetery, where many U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan are buried.

The Afghan President met wounded U.S. soldiers Wednesday at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Before returning to Kabul, Mr. Karzai is to visit Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, only weeks before the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division based there is to deploy in Afghanistan.