Obama assures Karzai of Afghan commitment in first phone talk

February 18th, 2009 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaKabul, Feb 18 (DPA) US President Barack Obama assured his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, of the US commitment to the fight against terrorism in the region during their first telephone talk since Obama’s inauguration, the Afghan president’s office said Wednesday.
The two presidents Tuesday night talked about a review of US policy in the fight against insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, preparations for the Afghan presidential election and enhancing Afghan security forces, Karzai’s office said in a statement.

President Obama assured Karzai that “his government would continue its assistance and cooperation with Afghanistan in different sections, especially in the fight against terrorism”, the statement said.

The first telephone contact between the two presidents took place on the same day as President Obama announced that his government would send 17,000 additional US soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan during the spring and summer seasons.

The number will be in addition to more than 35,000 US troops who are already stationed in the war-shattered country.

Karzai admitted last week that he still had not spoken with Obama nearly one month since the new US administration took office.

Once regarded as a darling of the West, Karzai enjoyed a favoured status during the administration of former US President George W. Bush, holding twice-monthly teleconferences with Bush.

Karzai also acknowledged last week that he had experienced tension with the US government over his repeated demands that US military forces avoid civilian casualties during their operations.

But others believe that the new downward spiral in relations between Kabul and Washington has been caused by Western frustration with the inability of Karzai’s government to curb endemic corruption, drug production and the worsening security situation.

The simmering tension between the two allies seemed to have cooled down following a trip last week to Kabul by the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.

During his trip, Holbrooke announced that Obama had accepted the participation of an Afghan team in an inter-agency review of US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan currently underway in Washington.

Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and top US commander in Afghanistan General David McKiernan agreed last week to give Afghan forces a greater role in their operations, something which they believe would reduce civilian killings.

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