US should stay in touch with Karzai: Hagel
Responding to questions posed by top US senators at a Congressional hearing, Hagel said Karzai’s remarks in this regard had probably been misinterpreted.
“I didn't go into any great depth as to what led him to that conclusion, but I think he said something to the effect that he was misinterpreted or there was some confusion in what he said,” Hagel said in response to a question during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Hagel, who was recently on his maiden visit to Afghanistan, said he was welcomed in Kabul with such a remark by Karzai. “I was welcomed with that comment as I was arriving in Afghanistan. We had an opportunity to expand on that privately, and he has since, I think, readjusted his thinking and what he said publicly,” he said.
The Defense Secretary last spoke with Karzai two day ago. “I called him. I think it's important that we stay in touch with leaders. We had a conversation in particular about the bilateral security agreement,” Hagel said.
“I wanted to also get his sense of the hand-over at the detention center. You know that that (Afghanistan) is an area of the world, and its leaders are under a lot of pressure all the time. And I think we need to stay engaged wisely and carefully and reach out -- make it very clear what our guidelines are,” he said.
“The only way we can responsibly transition out is to continue to work with the leaders,” Hagel said.
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Afghanistan, US forces are simultaneously fighting, transitioning and redeploying. “The Afghan military will soon take operational lead for security across the country. As they gain confidence, so too do the Afghan people,” he said.
In his remarks, Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said that the campaign in Afghanistan is now on track to reach a major milestone later this spring when the lead for security throughout Afghanistan will transition fully to Afghan security forces.
“There are clear signs that the Afghan security forces are capable of taking the fight to the Taliban and are doing so effectively.
Operations by Afghan security forces are increasingly conducted by Afghan units on their own; that is, without international forces present. There are fewer Afghan civilian casualties in recent months and fewer U.S. and coalition casualties, including a four-week stretch earlier this year with no U.S. or coalition fatalities,” he said.
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