U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will not abandon Afghanistan, as she launched talks aimed at repairing strained relations between the two governments.
At the start of Tuesday's day-long dialogue in Washington, Clinton told Afghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday that the United States will remain committed to Afghanistan's security and development long after "the last combatant has laid down arms."
The United States had been vocal in its criticism of alleged corruption in the Afghan government and elections. The Afghans, meanwhile, have bitterly complained of civilian casualties in U.S.-led military operations.
Alluding to the recent discord, Clinton said two sovereign nations can not be expected to agree on every issue. She said the ability to disagree reflects a "level of trust" essential to a meaningful dialogue. Mr. Karzai said such differences are a sign of a "mature" relationship.
President Karzai thanked Clinton for U.S. contributions in Afghanistan, saying gains in education, infrastructure, and security would not have been possible without the sacrifices of U.S. troops and U.S. financial backing.
The Afghan leader said going forward, Afghanistan will be seeking respect for its judicial independence and protection for its civilian population.
He thanked General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, for stepped-up efforts to avoid civilian casualties in combat operations, which he said are showing results, and for prompt U.S. apologies when such incidents occur.
The Afghan leader, who is accompanied by nearly a dozen members of his Cabinet, will meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.