Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 23:24 UK

Afghanistan leader Karzai thanks wounded US troops


Hillary Clinton: "This partnership is a long-term commitment"

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has paid an emotional visit to US soldiers injured fighting in his country, thanking them for their sacrifice.

He expressed his gratitude to the soldiers on a visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Mr Karzai is in the US for four days of talks aimed at repairing rocky relations between Kabul and Washington.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told him the US will remain committed to Afghanistan long after troops leave.

Mr Karzai will hold talks with President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

Visiting wounded US soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Mr Karzai said: "To see those young American soldiers, some with very young babies and children, one who just lost both legs the other who lost both arms and legs, it is really painful experience, an extremely painful wound for me.

"I wish that we will have no more people losing their lives and limbs like that."

In the course of his visit, the Afghan president is also due to visit Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, to pay tribute to US war dead, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to see the home of the 101st Airborne Division, which is deploying to Afghanistan over the next few weeks.

'Level of trust'

Earlier both Mr Karzai and Mrs Clinton acknowledged that their differences had complicated efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas
The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington

What a difference six weeks can make in US-Afghan relations. In March, the Obama administration was using tough words, twisting President Hamid Karzai's arm, hectoring him publicly.

The Afghan leader accused the West of undermining him, even threatened to join the Taliban. So is it all forgotten?

Perhaps not quite. US officials do not necessarily sound convincing when they say they have confidence in President Karzai but they are trying to smooth over differences with the man who is crucial to the success of Washington's strategy in Afghanistan.

"We will not abandon the Afghan people," Mrs Clinton said.

The ability to disagree on issues of importance was, she added, not an obstacle to achieving shared objectives but the reflection of "a level of trust that is essential to any meaningful dialogue and enduring strategic partnership".

Mr Karzai's trip comes at a crucial time for Afghanistan. Nato is preparing for an assault in the southern province of Kandahar, and Afghan officials are set for a forthcoming meeting of tribal leaders who will discuss how to promote peace.

The US hopes to start pulling out troops from July 2011 but the country has seen a marked increase in violence over the past year.

Mr Karzai thanked the US for its contribution since defeating the Taliban at the end of 2001.

But he also said that international forces in his country must do more to avoid civilian casualties.

"As two mature nations and two mature governments - by now the Afghan government is mature, too - we will be having disagreements from time to time," Mr Karzai said.

'Candid relationship'

Tuesday's welcome in Washington came in stark contrast to some of the acrimony and tension that had developed in the US-Afghan relationship over the past two months, BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas reports.

Relations reached a low point last year after Mr Karzai won an election widely condemned for corruption.

US envoy to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry said earlier he believed the visit would leave the two nations "well aligned".

He added every relationship experienced "ups and downs" and insisted Mr Obama had full confidence in Mr Karzai.

Gen Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, insisted he had a good relationship with Mr Karzai.

"I think it's important that I have an effective, candid, responsible relationship and I've been real happy with it thus far," he told reporters.

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