- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2013

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s first meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was a bumpy ride that included public criticism of America’s military role followed by an abrupt cancellation of a planned press conference.

Mr. Hagel opened the meeting by declaring, “We are still at war,” NBC reports. Mr. Karzai, meanwhile, went on national television and condemned much of the U.S. military’s actions in Afghanistan, drumming up angst by accusing American and the Taliban of daily negotiations to extend operations past 2014, various media reported.

Mr. Karzai also said that Saturday suicide attacks were Taliban messages aimed at showing how U.S. forces would not be able to withdraw as planned, NBC reported.

The commander of coalition forces, U.S. General Joseph Dunford, was forced to issue a response to Mr. Karzai’s claims of the Taliban attacks, calling them “categorically false,” NBC said. But in private meetings, Mr. Karzai continued to make the claims — ratcheting up tensions with Mr. Hagel and confusing an already volatile situation.

“I told him it was not true … that the U.S. unilaterally is not working with the Taliban to negotiate anything,” Hagel later told reporters, NBC reported.

Against that backdrop, the second Hagel-Karzai press conference was canceled. Still, both officials claimed the countries are united.

SEE ALSO: Revolving door of generals takes Afghanistan command

Mr. Hagel said: “I told him that he could and should call me directly if there’s anything I can do to facilitate the resolution of any of these issues,” as quoted by NBC.



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