Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that U.S. troops should leave the countryside and villages for major U.S. bases, and turnover military operations to Afghan troops by 2013, the Associated Press reports. The current U.S.plan is to turn over military operations in 2014.
Karzai’s announcement came after he met in Kabul with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is in the country on a planned trip that happened to take place in the wake of a massacre that left 16 Afghan civilians dead, allegedly at the hand of an American soldier.
“Afghan security forces have the ability to keep the security in rural areas and in villages on their own,” Karzai said in a statement.
After Karzai’s announcement, the Afghan Taliban announced that it was suspending peace talks with the U.S., The Washington Post reports. The group said in a statement it was cutting off discussion, and holding off opening a political office in Qatar because of Washington’s “alternating and ever changing position.”
On Wednesday, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron reaffirmed their Afghan strategy. Obama said the massacre on Sunday would not change U.S. policy.
“I don’t anticipate at this stage that we are going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we already have,” Obama said.