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Obama reaffirms ties to Afghan president whose words on Western 'interference' draw concern

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama moved this week to close a growing breach with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, sending him a letter reaffirming their close ties and reiterating an invitation to visit Washington next month.

The letter, delivered Thursday by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry in Kabul, thanked Karzai for organizing Obama's visit there late last month on short notice and "recommitted" the United States "to the success of our operation and our partnership," national security adviser James Jones said.

Jones, who spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday morning as Obama returned from signing a U.S.-Russia nuclear deal in Prague, dismissed persistent reports that Karzai is unstable and unwilling or unable to end the corruption that the United States believes is undercutting its efforts in Afghanistan.

Jones said Karzai "did not intend to create any damage to the relationship" with speeches made after Obama's visit in which he charged that Western "interference" in Afghanistan risked turning the Taliban into a legitimate resistance movement that he might join himself.

Afghan officials have expressed concern over the breach with Washington and have taken pains this week to insist that Karzai did not intend to offend the United States with his remarks.

Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Afghanistan's deputy national security adviser, said in an interview that he felt Karzai's remarks had been misinterpreted. Instead of attacking the West, he said, Karzai was warning that a deteriorating security situation, and problems such as last year's elections, could damage both Afghan and U.S. interests.

Osprey crashes

A U.S. aircraft crashed early Friday in southern Afghanistan, killing three American military personnel and one civilian while wounding several others, NATO officials said. The Taliban claimed they had shot down the CV-22 Osprey, a hybrid helicopter-airplane, but Afghan officials in Zabul province denied that. The Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that takes off like a helicopter but flies farther and faster.

Obama reaffirms ties to Afghan president whose words on Western 'interference' draw concern 04/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 12:24am]
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