Amid Rising Tensions, Kerry Meets Afghan Leaders

Mike O'Brien

Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday to discuss what will be a "critical year in Afghanistan."

A day after NATO foreign ministers meet to talk about the alliance’s role in Afghanistan after 2014, Mr. Kerry will also play host to Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and Pakistan’s army chief and foreign secretary.

Related: Red Cross Warns of Bloodiest Spring Ever in Afghanistan

Addressing a group of American diplomats in Brussels, Mr. Kerry said on Monday: "This is the year of transition. This is the critical year in Afghanistan.

"We are going to have a trilateral and try to talk about how we can advance this process in the simplest, most cooperative, most cogent way so that we wind up with both Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s interests being satisfied — but most importantly with a stable and peaceful Afghanistan."

Afghan security forces have just started taking the lead in combat operations against the Taliban as the insurgents launch more attack than ever before.

Relations between Mr. Karzai and his American allies have become increasingly strained, with the Afghan leader being highly critical of American Special Operations forces and coalition intelligence missions in recent weeks.

The announcement of the meeting came on the day it was revealed Taliban insurgents seized an Afghan pilot and nine foreign nationals from a transport helicopter after it was forced to make an emergency landing late Sunday night in eastern Afghanistan.

The private helicopter was being used to carry food and other items for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

It was heading to Kabul from a NATO base in Khost province when it was forced to land in Azra district in the Logar province, said the district's governor, Hamidullah Hamid.

Of the nine civilians, there were two Russians and seven Turkish engineers.

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