Monday, April 12, 2010

Holbrooke, Petraeus meet Karzai in Kabul

KABUL — US envoy Richard Holbrooke and senior general David Petraeus on Sunday met President Hamid Karzai in Kabul at a conference reviewing US civilian and military involvement in Afghanistan.

The three men sat together at the start of a two-day conference to discuss what NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said were the "shared challenges and opportunities ahead" in the war-torn country.

The event, involving senior US and Afghan officials, plus key allied partners, comes after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January unveiled a long-term, non-military plan to stabilise Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Holbrooke, whose office produced the strategy, is Washington's special representative for both countries while Petraeus oversees US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The plan envisages a "surge" of civilian experts who in Afghanistan would help rebuild the fractured farm sector, implement governance programmes and the reintegration of extremists into society.

Washington's ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, on Saturday unveiled a 40-million-dollar US-funded programme to improve governance in southern and eastern areas most affected by the insurgency

The United States is expected to provide the bulk of additional troops for a planned offensive against the Taliban in the south to try to bring an end to the increasingly bloody eight-year war.

Holbrooke's visit had been in doubt after he underwent tests in New York this week for possible blocked arteries but doctors gave him the all-clear to travel.

It also comes as both Kabul and Washington seek to draw a line under a row sparked by Karzai's claims that foreign governments were behind the massive fraud in last year's elections that returned him to power.

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