(CNN) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met over dinner in the Afghan capital on Sunday in an attempt to smooth over the latest dispute in the already strained relationship between the two allies.
Hagel told reporters he tried to reassure Karzai that the United States had no unilateral back-channel talks with the Taliban and said Washington is still on track to wind up its 11-year combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“The fact is, any prospect for peace or political settlements — that has to be led by the Afghans. That has to come from the Afghan side,” Hagel said. “Obviously, the United States will support efforts if they are led by the Afghans to come to some possible resolution.”
Hagel, a former senator who took the helm at the Pentagon last month, is making his first trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary. Karzai, meanwhile, has been increasingly critical of American forces in recent months.
- War: Karzai Accuses Usa, Taliban of Collaborating (reuters.com)
- Karzai: Taliban ‘serving the foreigners’ (cnn.com)
- Afghan leader alleges US, Taliban are colluding (cnsnews.com)
- Afghan President: U.S., Taliban Working Together (huffingtonpost.com)
- Hagel Offers Observations After Meeting With Karzai (defense.gov)
- Afghan President Karzai alleges U.S.-Taliban collusion (washingtontimes.com)
- Afghan President Claims U.S., Taliban Working Together [VIDEO] (radio.foxnews.com)