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U.S. tries softer touch with Afghanistan's Karzai

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai got a VIP briefing at NATO headquarters Saturday, and a senior American official went out of his way to smooth U.S.-Afghan relations — signs that Washington is using a softer touch in dealing with the unpredictable Afghan leader.

The turnabout is a bid to ease the rancor of the past week that flared after Karzai, seeking to rally national support, accused the West of meddling in his nation. Karzai, just days after President Barack Obama visited Kabul, alleged the United Nations and the international community interfered in last year's fraud-tarnished presidential election in Afghanistan.

Karzai's comments came as 30,000 U.S. reinforcements are streaming into Afghanistan. The Obama administration needs Karzai's support during a forthcoming military offensive to clear the Taliban from Kandahar, the biggest city in southern Afghanistan.

Karzai joked with U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, during a security briefing with senior military officials and members of the Afghan Cabinet. Karzai talked about his aspirations for a May conference to develop a national consensus for reaching peace with the Taliban, heard a security update on Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan and had lunch with top officials from the international coalition.

On Friday, Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, told reporters that U.S.-Afghan relations were on an "encouraging glide path."

Deaths

As of Saturday, 954 U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

Army Staff Sgt. Scott W. Brunkhorst, 25, Fayetteville, N.C.; improvised explosive device March 30; Arghandab River Valley.

Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler O. Griffin, 19, Voluntown, Conn.; combat April 1; Helmand province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson, 20, Rochester, Minn.; combat April 2; Helmand province.

Marine Sgt. Frank J. World, 25, Buffalo, N.Y.; combat April 1; Helmand province.

Navy Lt. Miroslav Zilberman, 31, Columbus, Ohio; helicopter crash March 31; Arabian Sea.

U.S. tries softer touch with Afghanistan's Karzai 04/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 9:28pm]
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