Chuck Hagel, recently confirmed as the Secretary of Defense for the United States is making his first trip to Afghanistan. Hagel’s trip however did not get off to a good start on over the weekend due to a contentious speech given by Hamid Karzai the President of Afghanistan, along with a problem with security that forced officials to cancel a press conference with Karzai and Hagel.
The press conference was to be an important part of the Defense Secretary’s first visit to Afghanistan. Of late, the relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan has been strained because of the planned withdrawal of foreign troops led by NATO before the end of 2014.
However, the press conference was cancelled just a couple of hours before it was scheduled to start at the palace of the president in the capital of Kabul. Officials from the U.S. cited security concerns but they would not specify what the concerns were about.
On Saturday, two suicide bombs also disrupted Hagel’s trip. One was in Kabul within earshot of the Secretary. Then on Sunday, Karzai gave a provocative speech by saying the U.S. was holding talks daily with Taliban representatives in Qatar and that suicide attacks by insurgents enabled international military forces to justify their presence in the country.
Karzai said the bombs that had been detonated in Khost and Kabul were not done as a show of force, but were done to serve the U.S. He was referring to the two bombs that killed 19 people. Karzai said it was the U.S. slogan for the withdrawal of troops, implying that without the U.S. troops present the Afghan people would be killed.
Karzai’s speech was criticized strongly by NATO forces commander General Joseph Dunford. The general was forced to deny that the Taliban was working with the U.S.