Afghan President Hamid Karzai turned down an invitation to meet with President Barack Obama Sunday. A White House official issued a statement to the press pool attributing Karzai’s decision to the “short notice” of the request and the fact Obama’s surprise visit to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan was dedicated to meeting with U.S. troops ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.
“As we said, we weren’t planning for a bilateral meeting with President Karzai or a trip to the palace, as this trip is focused on thanking our troops,” the official said. “We did offer him the opportunity to come to Bagram, but we’re not surprised that it didn’t work on short notice.”
Karzai, who became president in late 2001 after U.S. troops helped topple the Taliban regime, has had a difficult relationship with America. In an interview with the Washington Post in March, he said the relationship between America and Afghanistan “has been at a low point for a long time.”
Obama and Karzai have recently disagreed over a bilateral security agreement that would allow some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Afghanistan is holding elections for a new president this year and the White House has said it hopes to work with Karzai’s successor on the security agreement.
In their statement about Karzai’s decision not to meet with the president Sunday, the White House official emphasised Obama’s desire to work with Afghanistan’s next leader.
“The President will likely be speaking by phone with President Karzai in the days to come, and also looks forward to working with Afghanistan’s next President after the election is complete,” the official said.
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