Obama, Karzai Reaffirm U.S.-Afghan Partnership at Press Conference

BY Larisa Epatko  May 12, 2010 at 2:41 PM EST

After months of public discord, President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai reaffirmed their countries’ strong ties and commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan at a joint White House press conference Wednesday.

“We are much more strongly related to each other today than we ever were before,” Karzai said.

President Obama also pledged continued support to helping the Afghan government take over security of the country next year and cited progress in areas including anti-corruption efforts within the Afghan government.

“President Karzai and I both acknowledge that much more work needs to be done,” he added.

Karzai is in Washington for four days, where he and members of his cabinet and ministries are meeting with White House and State Department officials to reassess their joint strategy for the region aimed at reversing the momentum of the insurgency.

In his opening remarks, President Karzai said he visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and spoke with several of the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq. “This shows the commitment the United States has to bringing security to Afghanistan,” he said.

Watch both leaders’ opening statements here:

When asked about the July 2011 deadline for removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Obama replied that the date was still the target for the start of the withdrawal. “But we are not suddenly as of July 2011 finished with Afghanistan,” he said. “This is a long-term partnership.”

Watch more of his answer here:

Another reporter asked about both countries’ stances on reintegrating Taliban fighters into Afghan society. A peace “jirga,” or council of Afghans to discuss such a program, is planned for late May.

Karzai said the program is meant for the thousands of Taliban who are not ideological or tied to al-Qaida, but who are “country boys” who want to come back to Afghanistan if given the opportunity.

“This has to be an Afghan-led effort,” and the jirga can provide the framework for moving forward, President Obama said.

You can view the exchange here:

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, two analysts discuss Karzai’s visit and what was accomplished.