Obama, Karzai reaffirm 2014 Afghan withdrawal

03-16-2012, 16h44

President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on Friday reaffirmed that US troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, despite calls for an earlier withdrawal.

The two leaders spoke by phone Friday and reaffirmed they were committed to the agreed timetable "in which Afghan forces would complete the process of transition and have full responsibility for security across the country by the end of 2014," the White House said in a statement.

A statement by Karzai issued in Kabul provided a similar account, saying that "the two leaders took the opportunity to reaffirm our shared commitment to the Lisbon framework," which calls for a transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces in 2014.

"They also agreed to further discuss concerns voiced by President Karzai about the presence of foreign troops in Afghan villages," the Karzai statement said.

Karzai, in Thursday talks with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, had insisted international forces should leave Afghan villages and be "relocated in their bases" and that Afghanistan is ready to take over security operations.

In the phone call, Obama agreed to resolve Karzai's concerns over night raids as the two leaders said they would discuss complaints about NATO troops in villages.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said they discussed "Karzai's recent reiteration of his longstanding concerns regarding night raids and house searches and recommitted to conclude ongoing negotiations on a memorandum of understanding to resolve those concerns."

Carney told reporters on Air Force One that the two leaders were "very much on the same page" on the wider strategy and steps to follow over the next two years.

Karzai said he and Obama "share the goal of building capable Afghan security forces and strengthening Afghan sovereignty so that Afghans are increasingly in charge of their own security, with the lead for combat operations shifting to Afghan forces, with US forces in support, in 2013."

Obama, meanwhile, expressed anticipation over welcoming Karzai to a NATO summit in Chicago in May where leaders "will together define the next phase of transition," the White House statement said.

The US president called Karzai just after midnight ostensibly to "congratulate" the Afghan leader and his wife on the birth of their daughter.