KABUL, Afghanistan — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ate breakfast with soldiers from New York and Indiana at the main U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday before meeting with the top American general in Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, officials said.
Clinton, a Democrat from New York who is considering running for president, later went to Lahore, Pakistan, where she met briefly with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
The two discussed a range of issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the official said. Musharraf told Clinton about steps his government has taken to curb militancy and secure the Pakistani border with Afghanistan, the official said.
Clinton came from Iraq with Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y. All three are members of armed services committees.
Their meetings in Kabul were closed, and Clinton and her colleagues did not talk with journalists.
Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, gave Clinton and her colleagues an update on the security situation in the country, including the pace of reconstruction and the progress of Afghan army and police training, said Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. military spokesman.
Collins said all the meetings were private and he didn’t have any information about whether troop strength was discussed.
On Friday, Clinton said she was hearing “increasingly troubling reports out of Afghanistan” and would be searching for “accurate information about the true state of affairs” militarily and politically on her trip.
The Taliban last year launched a record number of attacks, and some 4,000 people, most of them militants, died in insurgency-related violence, according to a tally by The Associated Press based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials. It was Afghanistan’s bloodiest year since the Taliban was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001.
Some 23,000 U.S. soldiers are in Afghanistan, about half under NATO command and half under control of the U.S.-led coalition. Clinton has said she wants to see more troops sent to Afghanistan, without saying how many.
Clinton’s visit to Pakistan came weeks after Musharraf’s government announced a controversial plan to plant land mines and build a fence along parts of its frontier with Afghanistan to stop Taliban and al-Qaida guerrillas from crossing over.
The Afghan government quickly opposed the plan, saying it would separate families instead of preventing cross-border terrorism.
Pakistan was once a main ally of the Taliban. But it switched sides after a U.S.-led coalition force invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
Since then, Pakistan has deployed about 80,000 troops in its tribal areas near Afghanistan to flush out foreign militants and their local supporters. However, U.S. and Afghan officials have criticized the government for not doing enough to secure the border and keep militants from seeking refuge in Pakistan.
In the latest Afghan violence, a suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday near a convoy of foreign construction workers and Afghan soldiers in southern Afghanistan, wounding one civilian, said Mohammmad Asif, a police official.
Asif said the foreigners and Afghan troops were in their vehicles south of Qalat, capital of Zabul province, near the site where the workers are putting up a building for Afghan security forces. He could not give the workers’ nationality or the name of their company.
On Saturday, British marines staged a pre-dawn attack on a mud-brick compound atop a barren hill where insurgents were thought hiding, setting off a battle that killed 16 suspected militants and one marine in the southern province of Helmand.
The marines were supported by Dutch and British attack helicopters that fired missiles into the compound near the village of Khak-e-Hajannam. U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs.
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