US Secretary of State John Kerry met again yesterday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a day after they put on a show of unity as they tried to end recent bickering over anti-US comments made by the Afghan leader.
Kerry was also holding a series of meetings yesterday at the US embassy in Kabul before wrapping up his short visit. He was meeting participants in a US-backed women’s entrepreneurship program as well as civic leaders playing a role in preparing for Afghanistan’s elections next year.
Earlier yesterday, eight suicide bombers attacked a police headquarters in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing five officers and wounding four, police said. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Kerry arrived on Monday in Kabul amid concerns that Karzai may be jeopardizing progress in the war against extremism with his rhetoric. Karzai infuriated US officials earlier this month by accusing Washington of colluding with Taliban insurgents to keep Afghanistan weak even as the administration of US President Barack Obama pressed ahead with plans to hand off security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of next year.
After a private meeting, Kerry said he had asked Karzai about the comments and was very satisfied with the president’s explanation. He said the two countries were on the same page as international forces prepare to end combat operations next year.
At a joint news conference after his talks with Kerry, Karzai told reporters his comments in a nationally televised speech had been misinterpreted. Kerry demurred on that point, but said people sometimes say things in public that reflect ideas they have heard from others but do not necessarily agree with.
“I am confident the president [Karzai] does not believe the US has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace and that we are completely cooperative with the government of Afghanistan with respect to the protection of their efforts and their people,” Kerry said.
Karzai said he had been trying to make the point in his speech that if the Taliban really wanted foreign troops out of Afghanistan they should stop killing people.