The United States sought to assure Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday that it would remain committed to his country even as U.S. officials weigh a major withdrawal of American forces.
After an elaborate military ceremony outside the Pentagon on the eve of Karzai's White House talks, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told his "distinguished visitor" that more than a decade of war had paved the way for Afghanistan to stand on its own.
"After a long and difficult past, we finally are, I believe, at the last chapter of establishing a sovereign Afghanistan that can govern and secure itself for the future," Panetta said. "We've come a long way towards a shared goal of establishing a nation that you and we can be proud of, one that never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism."
Panetta later told reporters he had met alone with Karzai for about an hour, adding: "I think it's fair to say that we made some very good progress on all of the key issues that we discussed." Since US-led troops toppled the Taliban in 2001, the Afghan president has had a stormy relationship with his US allies.AFP