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Hagel: Taliban talks would be ‘led by the Afghans’

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Karzai charged on Sunday that there were ongoing negotiations between Islamist forces and the U.S. and suggested that the Taliban wanted U.S. troops to remain in the country, with both sides benefiting from the violence and instability.

His comments came after a suicide bomb attack at the Afghan Defense Ministry that killed 9 civilians, shortly after Hagel’s arrival in the country for his first visit as Defense secretary.

Karzai’s comments and the violence threatened to mar Hagel’s visit. On Sunday, officials were also forced to cancel a press conference with Hagel and Karzai because of a security threat.

Hagel later met with the Afghan president privately to discuss his comments during dinner on Sunday and said he had sought to reassure Karzai of U.S. support.

“I think he understands where we are and where we've been, and hopefully where we're going together,” Hagel told reporters after the meeting.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday also rejected Karzai’s allegations as “categorically false.”

“We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage,” said International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.

“We have no reason to be colluding with the Taliban,” he added.

For more on Hagel's comments, click here.