President Obama spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday about Karzai’s demands that NATO troops leave Afghan villages, which was made Thursday in the wake of reports that a rogue U.S. soldier murdering Afghan civilians.
The two leaders talked by phone after midnight Friday, and discussed Karzai’s calls for troops to leave villages and operate from large bases instead, as well as his push for security control to be handed off in 2013 and his demand for NATO forces to stop night raids, according to a White House readout of the call.
Obama and Karzai agreed to “further discuss” Karzai’s concerns about NATO troops in villages, and “recommitted to conclude ongoing negotiations” on night raids, which is one of the biggest sticking points to a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries, according to the White House.
“This has been going on for too long,” Karzai told reporters after meeting with victims of the massacre, according to Reuters. “You have heard me before. It is by all means the end of the rope here.”
The U.S. mission in Afghanistan has been questioned in both countries this week after a 38-year-old Army staff sergeant reportedly killed 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday. In Washington, calls have increased for a quicker withdrawal, and in Afghanistan lawmakers have expressed outrage that the U.S. military is moving the soldier to be tried out of the country.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One on Friday that Obama and Karzai were "very much on the same page" about the timetable for transferring security control.
Carney said he was not aware that Obama and Karzai discussed the transfer to the United States of the U.S. soldier accused in the Afghan civilian killings.
Obama has said that that the United States cannot “rush to the exits” in Afghanistan and change course, despite the tragedy.
Obama and Karzai last spoke on Sunday in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, when Obama expressed his "shock and sadness" over the incident, according to the White House.
But after meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul on Thursday, Karzai said that he wanted troops out of the village and the full transfer of security control from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to be moved up to 2013 from 2014.
Obama has said the United States backs moving the Afghans into the primary security role in 2013 before a full transfer by the end of 2014.
The U.S. military is planning to withdraw the final 23,000 surge troops from Afghanistan this summer, bringing the total U.S. forces there down to 68,000. The pace of withdrawal after the surge forces leave has yet to be decided. The strategic partnership agreement, which would set the conditions for a U.S. presence after security control is handed off in 2014, is also still being negotiated.
A more precise timetable for withdraw is expected to be decided when NATO leaders come to Chicago for a summit in May. Karzai will also be attending.
—This story was updated at 12:55 p.m.