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Afghan leader traveling to US to air grievances

Karzai

– When Afghan President Hamid Karzai visits Washington this week, he’ll bring with him a list of complaints he has enumerated for months in public speeches – accusations that the United States has fomented corruption in Afghanistan and continues to violate the country’s sovereignty.

Karzai’s top advisers say he has been forced to go public with that critique because meetings with U.S. officials in Afghanistan have yielded no progress on the issues he values most. Now he’ll share the list of grievances with an American president in the midst of disentangling the U.S. military from its longest war.

The prospect of a diminished U.S. presence in Afghanistan hasn’t dulled the tone of Karzai’s critique, even though he claims to want a long-term American security footprint in his country. That footprint would be welcomed, his advisers say, but only if it is accompanied by concessions on a number of seemingly intractable issues.

“The world needs us more than we need them,” said Abdul Karim Khurram, Karzai’s chief of staff.

Karzai wants U.S. officials to stop approving contracts “with warlords who use the money for their own gains,” according to his spokesman, Aimal Faizi. Karzai said in a speech last month that corruption is “imposed on us, and it is meant to weaken our system” – an assertion roundly rejected by U.S. officials in Afghanistan.

Karzai wants a full handover of the Parwan military prison, which U.S. officials approved last year but later rescinded, saying it appeared that Afghan officials were planning to release a slew of suspected terrorists.

He also wants a stronger Afghan air force, an end to U.S. military operations in villages and a guarantee that his country will be protected from cross-border incursions, particularly by insurgents from Pakistan.

For their part, officials in Washington said they plan to consult with Karzai on the possible size and character of the U.S. mission beyond 2014.

The Americans will also press him on his commitment to improving transparency and governance – both conditions attached to $16 billion in aid approved last year at an international donors conference in Tokyo.

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