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Casey on Karzai

Published by James O'Toole on .

  Sen. Robert Casey said he pressed Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai on the importance of fair elections and the preservation of the last decade's gains for Afghan women during a Capitol Hill meeting Wednesday.
        The bi-partisan meeting was part of Mr. Karzai's official visit to Washington at a time when the administration is assessing the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals and the number of residual troops that might remain there after the 2014 deadline for bringing home most U.S. forces.  Mr. Casey, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, described the session as a "good exchange'' on security and troops levels but said he felt that the Kabul regime was "not on the same page,'' as the American government on a number of those issues.
        He said that Mr. Karzai did offer assurances on the need to preserve gains for women in his country, particularly on the significant increase in the numbers of females in schools.   Mr. Casey noted that he had sponsored an amendment to the latest Defense authorization bill requiring progress report on the status of women at least though 2014.
        IN a conference call with reporters, the Pennsylvania Democrat said that while Mr. Karzai agreed with the importance of transparent and fair procedures in the coming presidential election in 2014, they disagreed on whether the country's last presidential election, in 2009, had met those standards.
        "I mentioned that I  had been critical ... I wanted him to hear that directly from me,'' he said.
        Mr. Casey said that he criticized the corruption that he and many outside observers saw in that contest, while Mr. Karzai continued to assert that any problems with the 2009 election were the result of outside forces, not his government.  Mr. Casey said he remained concerned with reports _ disputed by Mr. Karzai _ that the panels charged with supervising the pending elections would be dominated by the president's hand-picked associates.  The senator said that the administration should not be satisfied with Mr. Karzai's assurances on the voting issue and instead should anticipate "a tough election.''
        The meeting took place in the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Mr. Casey said he had been asked to attend by Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Also attending were two newly elected senators, Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

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