Karzai to meet Obama on US troop immunity
KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai will visit Washington next month for talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on America’s military presence in Afghanistan after the pullout of NATO-led combat troops by the end of 20014.
The discussion would focus on the number of US military personnel staying in Afghanistan after an end to NATO’s combat mission, the president told a joint news conference with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul late on Thursday night.
Hours after his return from a trilateral summit with Pakistani and Turkish presidents in Ankara, Karzai said although the US attached great importance to immunity from Afghan laws for the post-2014 troops, he would cling to his own priorities at his meeting with Obama.
During the summit in Turkey, the Afghan and Pakistani presidents reiterated their determination to push ahead with peace efforts, agreeing to jointly probe last week’s suicide attack on the Afghan spymaster.
Panetta arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit on Wednesday to meet Karzai and military commanders on American troop levels, which Obama will consider over these next few weeks.
The president indicated he would be better-placed to plead for granting immunity to US troops if the Americans helped his administration develop a strong Afghan air force and a capability to safeguard its interests in the region.
For his part, Panetta told reporters: "For the first time since 9/11, we have a chance to accomplish the mission that we are embarked upon. To achieve that goal will need continued commitment, partnership and sacrifice on the part of both nations."
The Afghans should not question America’s commitment to preventing the Taliban from returning to power, the visiting secretary said, promising: "America will not turn away from Afghanistan."
He urged Pakistan to take more effective measures to dismantle Al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens on its soil for the sake of stability in the region. Islamabad had repeatedly pledged cooperation but did not translate its promise into action.
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