I’ll meet with Barack Obama in US: Hamid Karzai

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said that he would meet his US counterpart Barack Obama in Washington next month to discuss a post-war US role in his country.

Kabul: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that he would meet his US counterpart Barack Obama in Washington next month to discuss a post-war US role in his country, whose fragile security was highlighted hours earlier by a suicide bombing that killed one US troop and two Afghan civilians.

At a news conference with visiting Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, Karzai said he and Obama will discuss how many US troops will remain after the Western combat mission ends in December 2014.

He said he understands that immunity from Afghan laws for those remaining Americans is of "immense importance" to Washington, but he added that he has his own priorities in negotiating a post-war US role.

"Give us a good Army, a good Air Force and a capability to project Afghan interests in the region," Karzai said, and he would be ready to argue "with ease and with reason" that his country should grant immunity to US troops.

Obama has said the US will not abandon Afghanistan and risk that it might revert to the al Qaeda haven it became in the 1990s after the Taliban came to power. Nor has he indicated what size and scope of post-2104 military mission he thinks is necessary and affordable.

The Taliban are a small but resilient force, even after 11 years of fighting a vastly larger US-led international force.

They managed to send a dramatic reminder today, claiming credit for the suicide bombing that killed three and wounded 17 near an entrance to Kandahar Air Field, the largest Western base in southern Afghanistan. Panetta and his travelling party had left the air field about two hours before the attack.

The US military did not identify the American who was killed. It said an investigation was under way.

Panetta was at the air field for about three hours, receiving a briefing from US commanders. Panetta also spoke to about 350 US troops and took questions from them before flying back to Kabul, where he met with Karzai at the presidential palace.

Panetta described the Kandahar attack as further evidence of insurgent brutality.

"This is what they resort to in order to try to continue to stimulate chaos in this country," he said. "They will not be successful."

The Karzai-Obama meeting, which Panetta said would occur during the week of January 07, with no specific date set, also is intended to discuss prospects for establishing a process for pursuing peace with the Taliban.


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