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Karzai wraps up feel-good Washington visit

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is wrapping up a four-day visit to Washington.

Washington: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is
wrapping up a four-day visit to Washington with a televised
give-and-take with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Obama administration has done its best to repair
strained relations with the Afghan leader, its partner in the
war against militants in Afghanistan. Karzai, meanwhile, will
continue to seek to convince Americans that his regime is
worth fighting and dying for, with a visit to Arlington
National Cemetery and private talks with top lawmakers.

After a lunch at Congress hosted by Senate Foreign
Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, Karzai was to appear
with Clinton at the US Institute of Peace for what was billed
as a "moderated discussion." They were expected to talk about
the ups and downs of the relationship and the way ahead.

Karzai leaves Washington on Friday. Before heading back
to Kabul he is expected to visit Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home
of the 101st Airborne Division, which is going to Afghanistan
over the next several weeks, according to US and Afghan

Today`s events in Washington cap a series of meetings
aimed at ending months of sniping and frustration over
management of the war and fraud surrounding Karzai`s
re-election last year. Both Obama and Karzai said at the White
House yesterday that such disagreements are normal with so
much at stake.

"There are moments when we speak frankly to each other,
and that frankness will only contribute to the strength of the
relationship," Karzai said at a joint news conference with

Despite noting gains that have been made since he ordered
thousands of additional US troops into Afghanistan, Obama said
the war will get worse before it gets better. He stressed,
though, that his plan to begin withdrawing US forces next
summer remains on track.

"What I`ve tried to emphasize is the fact that there is
going to be some hard fighting over the next several months,"
Obama said.

He spoke as the US-led force in Afghanistan readies to
push hard into the Taliban`s birthplace in Kandahar Province
in June. The campaign for Kandahar, already under way in
districts outside the city, is expected to be among the
bloodiest of the nearly nine-year-old war.

In his meetings with US officials, including Clinton,
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others, Karzai repeatedly
has called for the US to respect Afghanistan`s sovereignty and
has expressed frustration with operations that have killed
innocent bystanders.


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