Washington, May 23 (Reuters): Afghan President Hamid Karzai, meeting President George W. Bush today amid strains between their governments, complained about US treatment of Afghan detainees and Bush said Afghanistan poppy cultivation for heroin has to stop.
The two leaders met at the White House amid new tensions caused by the ongoing US military role in Afghanistan, three-and-a-half years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The two leaders went out of their way to present a picture of harmony at a news conference in the White House East Room, and a tangible outcome of their talks was a joint strategic partnership they signed aimed at strengthening ties. Karzai, however, told Bush of his concern about a US army report on alleged abuse of Afghan detainees.
The report, details of which were published last week by The New York Times, described abuses of prisoners at the hands of US troops, including two deaths.
“We are, of course, sad about that,” Karzai said. “But let me make sure that you all know that that does not reflect on the American people.”
He said Afghans are grateful to the American people and “recognise that individual acts do not reflect either on governments or on societies.”
“These things happen everywhere,” he added.
The US is holding more than 500 prisoners from its war on terrorism at the Guantanamo Bay naval base at Cuba, many of them detained in Afghanistan.
Bush gave no promises of any quick help on the issue.
“Our policy, as you know, has been to work our way through those who are being held in Guantanamo and send them back to the host countries,” Bush said. “And we will do so over time with the Afghan government.”
In the wake of a reported state department complaint that Karzai was not doing enough to eradicate the Afghan poppy crop used to make heroin, Bush said: “There is too much poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.”
“And I made it very clear to the president that we have got to work together to eradicate the poppy crop. And the president, not only in this meeting but in other meetings, has been very forthcoming about the desire to eradicate poppy,” Bush said.