| US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted by US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker in Kabul [Reuters]
Following a surprise visit to Tripoli, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has arrived in Afghanistan ahead of meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and civil society leaders.
Clinton landed in Kabul on Wednesday evening and was due to meet with officials at the US embassy to discuss the security transfer to Afghan troops in the lead-up to the summer 2014 deadline for a US troop withdrawal.
She is scheduled to meet with Karzai and Zalmai Rassoul, the Afghan foreign minister, on Thursday, with the status of peace talks with the Taliban and Kabul’s strained relationship with Pakistan likely to be on the agenda.
US officials said Clinton would also discuss the future “strategic partnership” between Afghanistan and the United States after 2014, when troops are scheduled to leave the country, with an eye on eventually formalising the alliance.
Following the meeting with Karzai, Clinton is expected to hold a round-table meeting with non-government and civil society leaders, before heading on to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on Thursday evening.
Tensions with Pakistan
Clinton’s visit comes after several high profile attacks rocked the Afghan capital.
The relationship between US and Pakistan has been increasingly strained over the attacks in Afghanistan, with senior US officials blaming Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting the armed Haqqani Network that carried out the assaults.
Karzai’s efforts to reach out to the Taliban in the hopes of negotiating a peace deal was thrown into disarray when his chief negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated last month.
Following the assassination, Karzai said he had shifted his focus to talking with Pakistan, who he accused of “playing a double game”.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said: “Security is on top of everyone’s agenda here, especially after the attacks we have seen in the recent months.”
“Clinton arrives as an offensive is going on along the Afghan Pakistan borders, as afghan and NATO forces try to root out Haqqani fighters, … blamed for a number of those attacks here in Kabul and around the country and also believed to have links to Pakistan. That offensive has been going on since the weekend.”
The increase in tensions between US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, an important regional player, has complicated the outlook as the Obama administration pushes ahead with plans to draw down troops and turn over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.