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Holbrooke meets with Karzai in Kabul

February 15, 2009|Associated Press

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — President Obama's new envoy to Afghanistan met with President Hamid Karzai on Saturday amid a downturn in U.S.-Afghan relations and an upswing in militant violence.

Karzai says he still has not spoken with the new U.S. president almost a month after his inauguration, a sign that Karzai no longer enjoys the favored status he had under former President Bush.

"There is tension between us and the U.S. government on issues of civilian casualties, arrests of Afghans, nightly raids on homes and the casualties they cause," Karzai told Al Jazeera television in an interview Friday.

Obama has said the U.S. will increase the attention it pays to Afghanistan as the U.S. withdraws troops from Iraq. But the administration is still debating how to stem the Taliban tide and tackle the endemic corruption in Karzai's government more than seven years after the 2001 invasion.

Taliban militants have increased attacks and stepped up their influence over wide areas of countryside in the last three years. The U.S. is contemplating sending as many as 30,000 more American troops to back up the 33,000 already in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, Richard Holbrooke, Obama's new envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with Karzai at the heavily guarded presidential palace in central Kabul. Neither Holbrooke nor Karzai made any public statements, but the two scheduled a joint news conference for today.

Holbrooke earlier met with Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, whose spokesman said Holbrooke reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to fighting terrorism, training Afghan forces and rebuilding the country.

Holbrooke has met with Afghan officials, international military leaders and U.N. diplomats during a fact-finding trip that began Thursday. He previously visited Pakistan and is to stop in India on his trip.

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