Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Pelosi meets with Karzai in Kabul

AP , KABUL AND KRAKOW, POLAND

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, right, walks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during their meeting in Kabul yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

The speaker of the US House met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul yesterday for talks about the ongoing strategic review of the US mission in Afghanistan, the president’s office said.

Nancy Pelosi arrived in Afghanistan on Friday to meet with Afghan officials and US and NATO military leaders, said Captain Elizabeth Mathias, a US military spokeswoman.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, also met with US troops during her two-day visit.

Karzai and Pelosi talked about the US strategy review of the situation in Afghanistan and Pelosi reiterated the US’ long-term commitment to Afghanistan’s security situation and economic development, Karzai’s office said.

Afghanistan was to send a high-level delegation headed by Foreign Minister Dadfar Rangeen Spanta to the US today “to review the joint strategy and the fight against terrorism,” the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Afghanistan’s interior and defense ministers, its national security director and chief of intelligence are on the delegation.

Pakistan is also sending representatives to take part in the review. Spanta and Pakistan’s foreign minister are expected to meet together with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Earlier, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Friday that Washington could accept a political agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban if the insurgents laid down their arms and accepted the government’s terms.

He was responding to a question from a Pakistani reporter about whether a deal struck by Pakistan with Taliban fighters in the restive Swat valley could serve as a model for Afghanistan.

On Monday, Pakistan announced it would agree to the imposition of Islamic law in the northwest valley as part of an agreement aimed at restoring peace after an 18-month military campaign. The pact was spearheaded by a hard-line cleric who is negotiating with the Taliban in the valley to give up their arms.

A reporter from Pakistan’s Geo Television brought up the Swat deal and criticism of it by Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to the region.

The reporter asked whether, if Pakistan succeeds in pacifying militant activity in Swat, the US would allow Afghans to make a similar type of agreement.

“If there is a reconciliation, if insurgents are willing to put down their arms, if the reconciliation is essentially on the terms being offered by the government, then I think we would be very open to that,” Gates said. “We have said all along that ultimately some sort of political reconciliation has to be part of the long-term solution in Afghanistan.”

Later, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said: “The secretary is too polite to take issue with the premise of the question, but he was in no way equating the prospect for reconciliation in Afghanistan with whatever deal the Pakistani government may or may not be trying to cut with militants in Swat Province.”

Gates also welcomed the fact that NATO nations have signaled a willingness to provide more troops or other assistance to the war effort.

“Countries are making new commitments on a fairly steady basis on both the civilian and military sides,” Gates said. “I expect there will be new commitments by the time of the NATO summit [in April].”

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