Meeting with Karzai, Menendez urges transparent election process in Afghanistan

Dogged by a scandal here, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sought cover in a Middle Eastern warzone.

Besieged by the FBI trying to hunt down tales of the senator cavorting with prostitutes in a Dominican Republic getaway, Menendez on Tuesday huddled with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

Menendez told Karzai the United States expects next year’s election to be “transparent, free and fair.”

According to Menendez’s press shop, the senator and Karzai also discussed the drawdown of the United States’ troops and the need to quickly conclude the Bilateral Security Agreement to govern the U.S. posture in the country after 2014.

“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 Menendez. “This mission is critical, not only for the stability of Afghanistan but also to protect enduring U.S. interests in the region.”

Menendez also met with 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’s rights advocates.

“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 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.”

"I’m an undertaker by trade, so when I bury somebody, they don’t come back."
—Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato