Afghan and Pakistani Officials Meet to Discuss Border Conflicts and the Taliban
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MARGARET WARNER: We turn to Afghanistan, where there was more violence today as the secretary of defense visited.
DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: We will be drawing down our forces.
MARGARET WARNER: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul today to discuss the scale of the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2014.
LEON PANETTA: Obviously, the Afghan army will assume full responsibility for the security of the country, but we will be there to provide support, to provide training, to provide assistance, to provide help on counterterrorism, and to provide for support for the forces that are here.
MARGARET WARNER: The last of President Obama’s 33,000 so-called surge forces left Afghanistan in September. Some 66,000 remain.
Earlier on his trip, Panetta met with his Afghan counterpart and General John Allen, commander of international security forces there. Panetta also greeted troops at the main U.S. base in Kandahar.
Just after his visit, one American soldier was killed and three wounded by a suicide bomber outside the base’s main gate. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Panetta said later the attack showed desperation.
LEON PANETTA: This is what they resort to in order to try to continue to try to stimulate chaos in this country. They will not be successful.
MARGARET WARNER: Meanwhile, there are ongoing efforts to find a political solution to the war among parties that distrust each other, the Taliban, the Afghan government, and Pakistan. Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met in Turkey this week, hosted by that country’s president.
PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan (through translator): Now we should be taking practical steps in bringing more confidence and trust to the countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
MARGARET WARNER: And, today, Pakistan announced it would release nine more Taliban prisoners, for a total of 18 this month, as requested by the Afghan High Peace Council.
For the past two years, the U.S. also has been attempting to engage the Taliban. In March, talks broke down on a deal to release five Taliban militants from the U.S. detention center in GuantanamoBay in exchange for the release of a U.S. soldier held by a Taliban affiliate in Pakistan.
The point man for the U.S. in these negotiations has been Marc Grossman, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. A career diplomat, he took the post after Amb. Richard Holbrooke’s sudden death two years ago today.