POSTED: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 6:16am
UPDATED: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 6:17am
Secretary of State John Kerry made a previously unannounced stop in Afghanistan for a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday, the day that a U.S.-run prison that bred tension between the nations was handed over to the Afghans.
Kerry landed in Kabul on Monday afternoon and was expected to meet with Karzai at the presidential palace later in the day. The stop extends a multination trip for Kerry -- over the weekend he was in Iraq, pressing that nation's leaders to take steps prohibiting Iranian planes from delivering arms to Syria's besieged government.
Before that, Kerry joined President Barack Obama on a trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.
Kerry's visit comes on the day that the United States handed over control of a U.S.-run prison near Bagram Air Base to Afghan authorities. The detention facility was a sticking point between U.S. and Afghan officials.
The visit also comes amid other tensions between Karzai and the NATO-led coalition forces that escalated after a bomb blast in Kabul this month that killed nine people. Karzai said afterward that there are "ongoing daily talks between the Taliban, Americans and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."
The comment effectively claimed the United States was trying to foment continued violence inside Afghanistan, and it was quickly denounced by NATO and U.S. officials.
Some experts say Karzai's comments were fueled by frustration over the detention facility not being handed over sooner, which he viewed as an attack on his country's sovereignty.
The handover deal was reached Saturday, but came a full year after the initial plan was announced by U.S and Afghan authorities. The original plan called for the prison and detainees to be handed over within six months, but in September, the United States "paused" the transfer of detainees, which include suspected Taliban militants and insurgents.
Under an agreement between the Afghan government and NATO, the bulk of U.S. and NATO combat forces are to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What remains to be decided is how many troops may remain to help train Afghan forces.
This is Kerry's first visit to Afghanistan as secretary of state, but the former senator's sixth during Obama's presidency.