Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai claims the U.S. is holding talks outside Afghanistan with the Afghan Taliban.
The allegations come as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continues his first visit to the nation as Pentagon Chief – and after a deadly explosion in Kabul on Saturday that the Taliban called a message to the new defense secretary.
Karzai made his claims in a nationally broadcast address just hours before he was to meet with Hagel, reports NPR’s David Welna, who is traveling with Hagel.
“Karzai claimed the U.S. has been meeting daily elsewhere with the Taliban,” Welna reports. “He also accused the U.S. of collaborating with the Taliban to stoke fears about coalition forces pulling out of Afghanistan next year.”
The Taliban claimed responsibility for a blast outside the Afghan Defense Ministry on Saturday that killed nine people. A second bombing in eastern Khost Province, also on Saturday, killed two police officers and eight children.
“The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014,” Karzai said. “They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents.”
American Gen. Joseph Dunford, who commands those forces, denied the charges, Welna says.
“President Karzai has never said to me that the United States was colluding with the Taliban, so I don’t know what caused him to say that today,” Dunford said. “All I can do is speak for the Coalition and tell you that it’s categorically false.”
Security concerns caused the cancellation of a joint news conference with both Karzai and Hagel on Sunday, a U.S. official said. Instead, the two men are scheduled to have dinner together, Welna reports — their first meeting of this trip.