U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. In his first trip to Afghanistan as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he also met with new International Security Assistance Forces Commander General Joseph Dunford.
In his meeting with President Karzai, Chairman Menendez underscored the expectation that next year's election be transparent, free and fair.
Senator Menendez and President Karzai also discussed the drawdown of the United States' troops, the need to quickly conclude the Bilateral Security Agreement to govern the U.S. posture in the country after 2014, and prospects for peace and reconciliation.
"I greatly appreciated the opportunity to engage in frank and open dialogue with President Karzai and to share views on the changing United States' mission in Afghanistan. The meeting provided an important opportunity to discuss the changing United States' mission in Afghanistan," said Chairman Menendez. "This mission is critical, not only for the stability of Afghanistan but also to protect enduring U.S. interests in the region."
Chairman Menendez also met with the U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, the USAID Mission in Kabul, High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, as well as Afghan civil society leaders, media owners, and women rights advocates.
Senator Menendez met with General Dunford to discuss the drawdown of 34,000 United States troops in Afghanistan, which President Obama announced in his recent State of the Union Address.
"The United States has been bold and generous in its contributions to democracy in Afghanistan, but we have paid dearly with the sacrifices of our troops and our national treasure," said Chairman Menendez. "It is now time for Afghanistan to take control of its own security and for our troops to begin the final phase of returning home."
During a visit to Bagram AFB, Senator Menendez was also able to greet several New Jerseyans serving in Afghanistan and to thank them for their service.