Karzai to Arrive in Washington Shortly
 
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Air Force Two, the official aircraft of the US vice president, is expected to land in Washington in a few short hours carrying President Karzai and his delegation of high-level Afghan officials visiting the United States for vital discussions on security and economic issues.

First on Karzai's agenda is to visit the hospitalised intelligence chief Assadullah Khalid, who was flown to Virginia for treatment following a suicide attack on him last December in Kabul.

He will meet President Barack Obama on Friday, but Karzai is scheduled to meet other US officials -- including Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Congressional leaders -- as well as wounded American soldiers in the lead-up to his White House meeting.

According to the Afghan minister of foreign affairs, Karzai's trip will focus on major aspects of the bilateral security agreement currently being negotiated by Afghan and US diplomats; the number of US troops to remain in Afghanistan post-2014, the number of their bases and locations; peace talks; aid mechanisms in the so-called Decade of Transformation between 2014 and 2024; and equipping the Afghan army and air force.

Meanwhile, a number of Afghan MPs – those who consider it important for Nato to stay and help until Afghan troops are ready – as well as a number of Afghan citizens hope that Karzai is able to secure long-term security support from Washington.

Kabul MP Shukia Barakzai called the security agreement a matter of vital importance for Afghanistan.

"If Afghanistan is to do something for its survival, that would be securing a long-term relation with the international coalition so that we can bring progress to our nation," she said.

Other Afghan MPs also consider the long-term of US troops essential.

"Nato troops should stay after 2014 in the border areas of the country because Afghanistan is vulnerable in those areas," said MP Fawzia Koofi.

Kabul MP Baktash Siawash, the youngest member of parliament, echoed similar sentiments but highlighted what he saw as the negative role of regional countries.

"Afghanistan is part of Pakistan's 'strategic depth' [doctrine], while the Iranian government wants Afghanistan to remain low and backward. Russia and China look at Afghanistan negatively and interfere.

Therefore, if Nato and the US leave Afghanistan, this country will face serious threats from the insurgency and neighbouring countries," Siawash warned.

Ordinary Afghan citizens seem to be divided in their opinion about long-term presence of Isaf troops.

"Foreigners should stay because we have experienced civil war before. They (foreigners) will not let that repeat," a Kabul resident told TOLOnews.

Another resident differed markedly: "I don't want a single foreign soldier to be in Afghanistan," he said.

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