Kabul, 27 Safar 1434/9 January 2013 (PAN/MINA) – President Hamid Karzai is due to enter crucial talks with the Americans on issues including Washington’s stance on the Taliban political bureau in Qatar and the US military presence in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of foreign combat soldiers, a senior official said.
At the head of a high-level delegation, including his foreign minister, the security transition commission chief and top Afghan peace negotiator, Karzai is expected to meet his US counterpart Barack Obama on Friday during his three-day trip to Washington.
The president, who arrived in Germany Monday night and then flew to the US before Tuesday noon, would hold decisive talks with his hosts on how many US soldiers would stay in Afghanistan after 2014, the official travelling with Karzai said.
During talks at the Pentagon on Thursday, Karzai will be briefed on US plans to keep its troops in Afghanistan and to continue training Afghan forces, he told Pajhwok Afghan News.
“In addition to developments in the Afghan-led peace process, the president will take up the issue of the Taliban liaison office in Doha with President Obama. Karzai will ask Americans to stake out its position on the ticklish question.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the US was interested in the opening of the Taliban office. But the fate of the bureau had to be decided by the rebels, he added, asking the Taliban to send their real representatives to Doha, not those linked to foreign spy agencies — a reference to Pakistan and Iran.
He alleged the Qatari government was not supporting the Afghan government’s efforts whole-heartedly at making the office functional in line with the conditions set by the Karzai administration.
Reports about the possible opening of the Taliban office in Qatar hit the headlines in February 2012, when the first-ever direct contact between the insurgents and US officials took place. However, in March, the militants announced suspending talks with the US, accusing it of refusing to accept their demands.
The future size and focus of the Afghan military, control of Afghanistan’s largest detention centre in Bagram and international aid flows after 2014 are also on the heavy agenda for the first meeting between the two leaders since Obama’s reelection.
Also part of the delegation is Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s chief spokesman, who said Karzai would discuss a draft agreement with US officials. The draft had been taken to the US by High Peace Council (HPC) Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani during his trip a few months ago.
Karzai is accompanied by ministers including foreign affairs, finance, his advisor on national security, the HPC chief, the Security Transition Commission head, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and others.
One official said the Afghan leader would reveal his terms and conditions to US officials for concluding a bilateral security pact that would allow a small number of American troops to remain in the country after complete security transition to local forces.
The high-level talks will also focus on security, economic and political transition, equipping and strengthening Afghan forces, Karzai’s office says.
Ahead of the visit, the White House said President Obama was looking forward to discussing continued security transition in Afghanistan with President Karzai and their shared vision of an enduring partnership between the two countries.
Faizi said Karzai would urge the US leadership for meeting future requirements of the Afghan military, in terms of heavy weaponry, an improved air force and medical support. (T/R-009/R-006)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)