Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that U.S. troops should leave the countryside and villages for major U.S. bases, and turnover military operations to Afghan troops by 2013, the Associated Press reports. The current U.S.plan is to turn over military operations in 2014.
Karzai’s announcement came after he met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul, who is in the country on a planned trip that happened to fall in the wake of a massacre that left 16 Afghan civilians dead, allegedly at the hand of an American soldier.
“Afghan security forces have the ability to keep the security in rural areas and in villages on their own,” Karzai said in a statement.
After Karzai’s announcement, the Afghan Taliban announced that it was suspending peace talks with the U.S., The Washington Post reports. The group said in a statement that it was cutting off discussion, and holding off opening their political office in Qatar because of Washington’s “alternating and ever changing position.”
The Taliban’s willingness to meet for discussions, and open a political office, was a sign of hope for ending the conflict in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirmed their Afghan strategy and partnership in the Afghanistan war. Obama said the massacre on Sunday would not change U.S. policy.
“I don’t anticipate at this stage that we are going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we already have,” Obama said.