Clinton and Karzai Turn Down the Tension

By Cullen Dirner

May 11, 2010 11:48am

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: This week, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai began a week-long trip to Washington, the US and Afghanistan have sought to ratchet down recent tensions between the two governments. The inflammatory rhetoric that nearly cost Karzai his meeting with President Obama was nowhere to be seen this morning as the Afghan leader sat down for a full day of meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Instead, he expressed his gratitude for American efforts in his country, and accepted the apologies of the top military commander, General Stanley McChrystal, for civilian casualties which had been a major source of contention. After listing the accomplishments Afghanistan has made in education, quality of life, and the economy since the fall of the Taliban, Karzai told Clinton: “All of those achievements, Madame Secretary, would have not been possible without the sacrifices of your sons and daughters in Afghanistan, together with the Afghan people, and without your taxpayers' money spent in Afghanistan, together with the Afghan people; for which, Madame Secretary, I thank you and, on behalf of the Afghan people, please do convey the gratitude of our people to the people of the United States of America.” For her part, Clinton pledged a US commitment to Afghanistan she said that will outlast the American troop presence there. “This partnership is a long-term commitment by the American people to the Afghan people,” she said. “And this commitment, Mr. President, will endure long after U.S. combat troops have left, because we have learned the lessons of the past. At one point, Clinton even spoke about “trust” between the two sides despite the recent row. The US effort to lower tensions during the visit began before Karzai even left Kabul. Ambassador Eikenberry accompanied him on a US Air Force flight to the US and Ambassador Holbrooke went to Andrews Air Force Base to welcome him in person. Last night Karzai dined with Clinton and tonight he’ll have dinner with Biden, but not before Clinton fetes him one last time with a reception in his honor at the State Department. Tomorrow, Karzai will meet all day at the White House and hold a joint press conference with President Obama. On Thursday, Karzai and Clinton will hold a moderated public discussion at the United States Institute of Peace. This morning, Karzai referenced the recent spat, but stressed he is committed to move beyond it. “We'll be having disagreements on issues from time to time. But that is the sign of a matured relationship and the sign of a steady relationship. And this steady and mature relationship is definitely going to get us the objectives, in pursuit of which we have joined hands to bring security to Afghanistan and by extension to the United States and the rest of the world,” he said. Clinton defined the US-Afghan relationship in similar terms. “We can't expect the United States and Afghanistan to agree on every issue. We will not. That is a given in a relationship between two sovereign nations. But President Obama and President Karzai both understand that the ability to disagree on issues of importance to our respective countries and peoples is not an obstacle to achieving our shared objectives. Rather, it reflects a level of trust that is essential to any meaningful dialogue and enduring strategic partnership,” she said.
Karzai spoke calmly about civilian deaths in Afghanistan and thanked General McChrystal for his apologies following recent incidents. “Afghanistan will be seeking protection for its civilian population, for which I'm very thankful to General McChrystal, for the effort that he's putting in, for the protection of the Afghan civilians, with results. And it's the first time that when incidents like that occur, that he calls, and if it is — if it has occurred, apologizes for it, for which we are grateful. But as we all understand well, we must be working very hard to prevent completely and incompletely, to the extent possible for us, these possibilities of casualties and the consequences that it has for us all,” he said.
– Kirit Radia

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