Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Sunday, 15 February 2009

US to include Afghans in review


US envoys to return to Afghanistan

Afghanistan will send a team to the US to take part in a major policy review of the region, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced.

In a joint news conference with the new US envoy in the region, Richard Holbrooke, Mr Karzai said he was "very thankful" to be involved in the talks.

In recent weeks US officials have been critical of Mr Karzai's leadership.

US President Barack Obama, who regards Afghanistan as a priority, accused his government of being "very detached".

The BBC's Martin Patience, in Kabul, says Mr Karzai and Mr Holbrooke appeared keen to smooth over any apparent discord at the news conference on Sunday.

But our correspondent says it is widely thought that Mr Karzai is no longer popular in the White House - and it may take more than a news conference to change that perception.

Civilian deaths

Mr Holbrooke said he hoped at least one senior US official would be in Afghanistan every month "to find ways to improve our joint effort".

An Afghan family in Kabul, file image
Civilians are often caught up in the fighting

Meanwhile, Mr Karzai said he had requested permission to send a delegation to the US as part of Obama government's review.

"I'm very very thankful that President Obama has accepted my proposal of Afghanistan joining the strategic review of the war against terrorism in the United States," Mr Karzai said.

The Afghan leader also said that "very specific measures" had been agreed between Nato, the US and his government to prevent civilian casualties.

According to UN figures 1,800 civilians died in the conflict between January to October last year.

Taleban militants and local warlords were blamed for about 1,000 of the fatalities.

US and Nato forces were held responsible for 700 deaths, mainly through air strikes.

Inherited 'mess'

Mr Holbrooke, the new envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has also visited Pakistan as part of his tour - but has so far made only brief statements.

He said earlier he was in the region to "listen and learn".

Before his trip, Mr Holbrooke said Afghanistan would be "much tougher" than Iraq and he had not "seen anything like the mess we have inherited".

During talks with Pakistani leaders, reports say the envoy stressed Washington's financial commitments to the country but underlined the need to purge militant safe havens in the north-west region, along the Afghan border.

Analysts say Mr Holbrooke will be a key player in a renewed effort to reverse the deteriorating security situation on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Mr Holbrooke has now arrived in India.

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