US President Barack Obama on Tuesday spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for what officials said were regular consultations, three days after a NATO air strike killed 11 Afghan children.
The White House announced the conversation, but would not divulge whether Obama mentioned the strike, which caused the latest of a string of civilian losses that have greatly angered Karzai and tested his relations with Washington.
A White House statement said the leaders discussed the security transition from NATO to Afghan forces and Afghan-led peace and recognition efforts.
“President Karzai affirmed his support for an inclusive process of preparing for Afghanistan’s 2014 elections, and the leaders noted that free, fair, and credible elections would be critical to Afghanistan’s future and continued international support,” the statement said.
Obama praised Karzai’s recent talks with the emir of Qatar on the possibility of opening a Taliban office in the Gulf state to further Afghan reconciliation efforts.
Karzai meanwhile said that he welcomed the handover last month of the Bagram prison to Afghan control. The jail had been a frequent irritant between Washington and Kabul.
“The leaders committed that their teams would continue to keep dangerous detainees off the battlefield and work in partnership at the facility, consistent with Afghan sovereignty.”
The call between Obama and Karzai came after the Afghan leader on Sunday strongly condemned the NATO strike in Kunar province bordering Pakistan that Afghan officials said killed 11 children.
After an air strike in February killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO air strikes.
However it is unclear whether the ban has been enforced, and many operations are jointly run by NATO and Afghan forces.
The latest strike came a day after at least five Americans, including a young female diplomat, were killed in two Taliban attacks in the country’s east and south.