Anti-US anger shadows Karzai trip to America

Agence France Presse

Kabul, May 20:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai heads to the United States tomorrow in a visit that threatens to be overshadowed by the most violent anti-US protests to rock Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban and new allegations of prisoner abuse by US soldiers. Since helping to bring down

the extremist Islamic regime in 2001. Washington has remained Karzai’s biggest supporter,

both in terms of reconstruction aid and its military presence, with 18,000 troops on the ground

here. But the relationship is showing signs of strain after 15 people were killed in anti-US protests last week sparked by an erroneous report of copies of the Koran being desecrated by the US military. The trip will see Karzai meeting President George W. Bush on Monday, as well as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the new head of the World Bank and former Bush administration hawk Paul Wolfowitz.

During his four-day trip, the president will also meet members of Congress, whose job it is to approve the multi-billion dollar packages of military and economic aid that are stopping Afghanistan from becoming a failed state. The bill currently runs to some $15 billion a year, and nearly 80 percent of it goes to to cover military expenses. Meeting for the first time since Karzai was re-elected Afghan president in October, last year, the two are expected to focus on the ongoing war against terror and Afghanistan’s faltering progress, Bush’s spokesman Scott McClellan said. “This will be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss the progress in the global war on terrorism, the achievements of the Afghan people in building democracy and our ongoing cooperation on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues,” McClellan said ahead of Karzai’s trip.