Monday, May 10, 2010
Source: DTN News / Telegraph
(NSI News Source Info) LONDON, U.K. - May 10, 2010: The 25-year-old was told that he had completed his training and was also informed he had the ability to fly either the Lynx or Apache helicopters.
The prince has until his graduation ceremony next Friday to decide which aircraft he would like to specialise in and his preference will be taken into consideration when military commanders make their final decision.
A St James's Palace spokesman said: ''Prince Harry is very pleased. He will give the matter serious consideration over the next few days before inputting his preference.''
Lieutenant Harry Wales served in Afghanistan's Helmand Province as a forward air controller directing air strikes for 10 weeks in 2007-08 and he has made no secret of his wish to return.
The prince, an officer with the Household Cavalry Regiment, changed the direction of his military career and became a pilot to increase his chances of being deployed to the Middle East country.
Harry began his flying training with the Army Air Corps in January last year and has been working hard to complete the course.
Speaking last June about his flying training, he said: "I'm really enjoying it and, as everyone knows, it's my easiest way of getting back to the front line. Maybe safer, maybe not, I don't know."
He added: "To get out to Afghanistan again would be fantastic and my best chance is to do it from a helicopter."
Harry has been training with the Army Air Corps (AAC) at its base in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, flying the Squirrel helicopter.
He will have spent more than 90 hours in the air during the 22- week course.
He successfully completed its final handling test yesterday and earlier in the week finished the "course final exercise".
A St James's Palace spokesman said: "Instructors assessed Prince Harry as capable of being an Apache or a Lynx pilot."
The choice before the prince is one of two extremes.
The Apache is a fearsome attack helicopter and one of the most advanced military aircraft in the world. UK forces in Helmand Province have employed the aircraft to hunt and kill Taliban fighters, gather intelligence and provide cover for larger Chinook helicopters transporting troops and vital supplies.
The Lynx is a versatile machine which is used for reconnaissance, as an aerial vantage point for commanders during battles, and to transport troops.
The Army's 22 Lynxes are currently being upgraded to Mk9A standard so they can support British forces on the front line in the blisteringly hot conditions of an Afghan summer.
Speaking about the prince's helicopter choice, the spokesman added: "As with any other pilot, Prince Harry's preferences will be taken into account by the chain of command, which will make its final decision about aircraft type ahead of next Friday's graduation ceremony."
Harry's father, the Prince of Wales, who is the AAC's Colonel in Chief, will present him with his provisional wings at the event being held at Middle Wallop.
Harry will begin his "conversion to type" training once a decision has been made about which helicopter he will fly.
(NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS, Belgium - May 10, 2010: The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have pledged nearly $1 trillion to defend the embattled euro, hoping to turn back relentless attacks on the eurozone's weakest nations and allow the continent to resume its hesitant economic recovery.
Central banks around the world joined the coordinated effort to prevent Europe's debt crisis from derailing the global economy's rebound from recession. The U.S. Federal Reserve reopened a program to ship billions of U.S. dollars overseas in a bid to pump more short-term cash into the financial system and make sure banks have the dollars they need.
Other central banks, including the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, and the Bank of Japan also are involved in the temporary dollar swap plan. Separately, the ECB jumped into the bond market, saying it is ready to buy eurozone bonds to shore up liquidity in "dysfunctional" markets.
Markets, rattled for weeks by the prospect Greece would default on its mountain of debt, heaved a sigh of relief. The euro climbed to $1.2963, up from the 14-month low of $1.2523 it hit late last week. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 1.3 percent to 10,499.25 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climed 0.8 percent to 20,080.18. Futures suggested Wall Street would welcome the euro defense. Dow futures jumped 233 points, or 2.3 percent, to 10,568, and S&P and Nasdaq futures were both up more than 2.7 percent.
Under the three-year plan, the EU Commission will make euros60 billion ($75 billion) available while countries from the 16-nation eurozone would promise backing for euros440 billion ($570 billion). The IMF would contribute an additional sum of at least half of the EU's total contribution, or euros250 billion.
"We shall defend the euro whatever it takes," EU Commissioner Olli Rehn said after an 11 hour-meeting of EU finance ministers that capped a hectic week of chaotic sparring between panicked governments and aggressive markets.
Officials hope the massive sums will deter currency speculators from betting on a euro collapse after political posturing and soothing words failed to convince investors that Greece's financial implosion could be contained.
Markets had battered the euro and Greek government bonds even as EU leaders insisted for days that Greece's problems were a unique combination of bad management, free spending and statistical cheating that doesn't apply to other euro-zone nations.
In the end, even longtime skeptic Germany realized Europe had to show the money after financial attacks on Greece's debt seemed poised to spread to other weak European nations such as Portugal and Spain. Fear of default led to investors demanding high interest rates that Greece could not pay, forcing it to seek a bailout. Many feared market skepticism would make Portugal and Spain pay more and more to borrow, worsening their plight.
"We now see herd behaviors in the markets that are really pack behaviors, wolf pack behaviors," Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg said Sunday. If unchecked, "they will tear the weaker countries apart. So it is very important that we now make progress."
Spain and Portugal have committed to "take significant additional consolidation measures in 2010 and 2011," a statement from EU finance ministers said. The two countries will present them to EU finance ministers at their meeting on May 18.
"We are facing such exceptional circumstances today and the mechanism will stay in place as long as needed to safeguard financial stability," the ministers said.
Some eurozone nations, meanwhile, blamed the fragile governments and a lack of European cooperation for the crisis.
"I'm against putting all the blame on speculation," said Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proell. "Speculation is only successful against countries that have mismanaged their finances for years."
Seperately, eurozone leaders on Saturday gave final approval for a euros80 billion ($100 billion) rescue package of loans to Greece for the next three years to stave off default. The International Monetary Fund also approved its part of the rescue package — euros30 billion ($40 billion) of loans — in Washington Sunday.
The Fed's move to back the euro defense plan reopens a program put in place during the 2008 global financial crisis under which dollars are shipped overseas through the foreign central banks. In turn, these central banks can lend the dollars out to banks in their home countries that are in need of dollar funding. Swap agreements generally allow one central bank to borrow a currency from another, offering an equivalent amount of its own as collateral.
The Fed said action is being taken "in response to the reemergence of strains in U.S. dollar short-term funding markets in Europe" and to "prevent the spread of strains to other markets and financial centers." A so-called "swap" line with the Bank of Canada provides up to $30 billion. Figures weren't provided for the other central banks.
AP Business Writer Emma Vandore in Brussels, and Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley in Paris, Matt Moore in Frankfurt, Daniel Wagner and AP Business Writer Jeannine Aversa in Washington contributed to this report.
Source: DTN News / The Mainichi Daily News, Japan
(NSI News Source Info) TOKYO, Japan - May 10, 2010: A next-generation missile interceptor being co-developed by Japan and the United States would not be able to take out U.S.-bound North Korean long-range ballistic missiles flying over Japan, senior Defense Ministry officials said Sunday.
This is because the range of the interceptor, dubbed the Standard Missile 3 Block 2A, would not allow an Aegis-equipped ship deployed off Japan to target high-flying missiles, the officials told Kyodo News.
The outlook could affect debate in Japan over whether to exercise the constitutionally banned right of collective self-defense so as to shoot down U.S.-bound missiles flying over the country.
With an estimated range of 200 to 300 kilometers, the current SM-3 is known to be unable to intercept long-range ballistic missiles. Some military analysts had argued that the SM-3 Block 2A would be capable of doing so, though its range has not been made public.
An advanced version of the SM-3, the SM-3 Block 2A, will have a longer range and higher targeting accuracy. The United States plans to begin deploying it in 2018.
As the new model will be able to counter decoys or multiple warheads, one Aegis-equipped vessel with the interceptor is expected to be sufficient to defend Japan, instead of the two presently needed.
Despite the outlook for the next-generation interceptor, the Defense Ministry officials said it might still be able to knock out ballistic missiles bound for Hawaii if activated in seas near the U.S. Pacific island state just before the missiles reenter the atmosphere.
According to a ministry report about North Korea's missile launch in April last year, the missile flew more than 3,000 km after passing 370 to 400 km above northeastern Japan. A missile bound for Hawaii, about 7,000 km away from the reclusive nation, would fly at an even higher altitude.
When deciding to introduce missile defense in 2003, Japan said it will not be used to defend third states. Tokyo takes the position that the country has the right to defend an ally under attack but "cannot exercise" the right under the pacifist Constitution.
But a blue-ribbon panel proposed in 2008 that the current interpretation of the Constitution concerning the right of collective self-defense be altered in favor of intercepting U.S.-bound missiles.
Washington pointed out last year that if Tokyo cannot move to counter U.S.-bound missiles, it will make it harder for U.S. citizens to understand the need to maintain a bilateral alliance with Japan.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said his government has no intention of reviewing the interpretation of the Constitution over this matter.
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - May 10, 2010: Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev met here on Sunday to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral strategic relations of cooperation and partnership.
Hu was in Moscow for the celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of the victory of the Great Patriotic War over Nazi Germany.
He said the celebrations were wonderful and splendid, fully testifying to the strength of thepeace-loving Russian people in building their country.
Medvedev said Russia and China shared similar views on the history of World War II, and the attendance of the two heads of states at the celebrations was of great significance.
The Chinese president said both sides should promote cooperation in trade and energy, as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, adding the two countries should implement in earnest the summer camp program that will bring 1,000 Russian middle and primary school students to China.
Hu brought forward a four-point proposal for boosting China-Russia strategic coordination.
First, both countries should strengthen their coordination and cooperation in theinstitutionalization of the Group of 20, seek greater say for the two countries in international affairs and uphold their just rights and interests and those of the developing countries.
Secondly, both countries should keep close communication, and help maintain regional peace and stability.
Thirdly, both sides should enhance cooperation in fighting terrorism, as well as the "three forces," namely extremism, separatism and terrorism.
And fourthly, both countries should strengthen coordination and cooperation in such major international issues as climate change and energy security.
Medvedev shared Hu's views on further boosting bilateral relations, saying that Russia was ready to strengthen cooperation with China in economy and trade, science and technology, energy, culture, and regional affairs.
The Russian president said both sides should make joint efforts to make the "Year of the Chinese Language" in Russia a success, regarding it as a major task for bilateral cultural cooperation this year.
Medvedev congratulated China over the grand opening of the Shanghai World Expo, and voiced his expectation to attend Russia's National Pavilion Day at the Expo.
The meeting was the second between the two leaders in less than a month. Hu and Medvedev met in Brasilia on April 15 on the sidelines of a summit of the BRIC nations -- Brazil, Russia, India and China.
On Sunday, Hu and other leaders took part in a series of celebrating activities, including a military parade at the Red Square, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, and a banquet hosted by President Medvedev.
The parade, which was accompanied by over 50 Russian and foreign military orchestras, was divided into the military personnel's march, the parade of military armaments on the ground and in the sky.
More than 10,000 personnel, 159 military armaments, 127 aircraft and helicopters participated in the Red Square parade.
On Saturday, Hu called for further strengthening of China-Russia ties while meeting with some Russian soldiers who helped China battle Japanese aggressor troops in the World Anti-Fascist War.
During his meeting with the Russian veterans, Hu said the Chinese people would never forget the Soviet Red Army's contributions to the success of China's Anti-Japanese War.
Many Russian soldiers and citizens sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the Chinese people, he said.
Fighting together against the fascists, the Chinese and Russian people forged a profound friendship, he added.
"The friendship cemented with blood and people's lives lays a solid foundation for the China-Russia strategic relations of cooperation and partnership," Hu said.
Hu also called for a correct view of history, saying the Soviet Union and China's contributions to victory in the World Anti-Fascist War are "ironclad."
The Chinese president returned to Beijing Monday morning after attending the celebrations in Moscow.
Source: DTN News / Taipei Times
(NSI News Source Info) TAIPEI, Taiwan - May 10, 2010: The Air Force may file a case with the international commercial arbitration court to seek the return of kickbacks that were allegedly paid during the procurement of French Mirage 2000 jet fighters in 1992.
In the wake of a ruling handed down on Monday by an international court of arbitration in Paris ordering French company Thales (formerly known as Thompson-CSF) to repay the Taiwanese government about US$861 million in kickbacks involved in the scandal-plagued Lafayette frigate deal, the Air Force said on Wednesday it was reviewing the Mirage deal.
If the Air Force decides that kickbacks were paid during the procurement of the fighter jets, it would decide whether to file a case with the international court, it said.
The court in Paris ordered Thales to repay the money given in unauthorized commissions to help Thomson-CSF win a deal to sell the six frigates for US$2.5 billion in 1991.
Taiwan ordered 48 single-seat Mirage 2000-5EI interceptors and 12 Mirage twin-seat 2000-5DI trainers in 1992. The first squadron became operational in 1997.
French newspaper Le Monde reported on Nov. 30, 2001, that a French judicial probe was opened that year to investigate claims that much of the money paid by Taiwan during the Lafayette deal went to commissions for middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, China and France.
However, an investigation by the judiciary in Taiwan alleged Andrew Wang, the main figure in the Lafayette scandal, might have received US$260 million in kickbacks over the course of the Mirage deal.
In August 2004, the Control Yuan announced that the Mirage deal was “suspicious” because the Air Force had originally reported the cost as 22.8 billion francs (worth US$4.3 billion in 1992), but then 6 billion francs was added to the bill at a later date. The Control Yuan requested a judicial probe be opened into the Mirage deal.
“The price of the procurement of the Mirage aircraft is obviously much more than their market price,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Hsien-yao said on Wednesday.
He said he suspected the kickbacks paid in the deal were higher than those in the Lafayette deal. In the Lafayette case, Taiwanese investigators said Thompson-CSF paid US$495 million to Wang and US$25 million to Alfred Sirven, a former vice chairman of French oil firm Elf-Aquitaine.
Wang fled Taiwan in late 1993 following the death of Navy Captain Yin Ching-feng, whose body was found in the sea off the east coast of Taiwan. Yin was believed to have been ready to blow the whistle on those who received kickbacks in the deal.
Audit, Compensation, Nominating and Governance Committees of Independent Directors
Code of Ethics for All Officers, Directors and Employees
“We are pleased with the formation of the Committees and the independence and qualifications of each of their members”
The Audit Committee of the Board of Directors will consist of Michael L. Goldberg (Chair), Kenneth J. Koock, and Randall D. Humphreys. The Board has determined that all members of the Audit Committee qualify as “audit committee financial experts” as defined in Item 407(d)(5)(ii) of Regulation S-K promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, are “independent” under Section 10A(m)(3) of the Exchange Act and the requirements of the New York Stock Exchange, and also meet the additional criteria for independence of Audit Committee members set forth in Rule 10A-3(b)(l) under the Exchange Act.
The Nominating & Governance Committee will consist of James D. Henderson (Chair), and Goldberg. The Board has determined that both members of the Nominating & Governance Committee are “independent” under Section 10A(m)(3) of the Exchange Act and the requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.
The Compensation Committee will consist of Koock (Chair) and Jerrold S. Pressman. Pressman also serves as Chairman of the Board. The Board has determined that both members of the Compensation Committee are “independent” under Section 10A(m)(3) of the Exchange Act and the requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.
The Board of Directors also adopted a Code of Ethics, applicable to all Company officers, directors and employees, including senior financial officers.
"We are pleased with the formation of the Committees and the independence and qualifications of each of their members,” commented Henderson, Chairman of the Nominating & Governance Committee. “We are encouraged by the background and experience that each independent member of the Board of Directors brings to the Company and how their expertise will benefit the Company as we continue to execute our growth strategy.”
About U.S. Aerospace, Inc.
U.S. Aerospace, Inc. is a publicly traded aerospace and defense contractor based in Southern California. U.S. Aerospace is an emerging world-class supplier to the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT - News), The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA - News), L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: LLL - News), the Middle River Aircraft Systems subsidiary of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE - News), and other aerospace companies, commercial aircraft manufacturers and prime defense contractors. The Company supplies aircraft assemblies, structural components and highly-engineered, precision-machined details for commercial and military aircraft. It is also a leading manufacturer and remanufacturer of specialized aircraft machining tools, including vertical boring mills and large Vertical Turning Centers used to manufacture the largest jet engines, airplane landing gear, and other precision components. U.S. Aerospace has offices and production facilities in Santa Fe Springs and Rancho Cucamonga, California.
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Order Supports ATK's Growth Strategy into the Expanding Security Marke
In response to the
"MOLLE kits are a core part of our growing security business," said Ron Johnson, President of ATK's Security and Sporting group. "The Army's decision to outfit all of its Soldiers in Afghanistan with this new camouflage pattern presents a new opportunity for ATK as we build-out our security portfolio, which now includes the recent acquisition of the Blackhawk Products Group."
Eagle Industries is a leader in the production of top-quality individual equipment systems for military personnel, law enforcement professionals and first responders. Several highly adaptable, combat proven and durable personal protective systems and components are distributed by Eagle Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems (
ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with more than 18,000 employees in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally, and revenues in excess of $4.8 billion. News and information can be found on the Internet at www.atk.com.
Certain information discussed in this press release constitutes forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although ATK believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that its expectations will be achieved. Forward-looking information is subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Among those factors are: assumptions related to the growth expectations of the security market; changes in governmental spending, budgetary policies and product sourcing strategies; the company's competitive environment; the terms and timing of awards and contracts; and economic conditions. ATK undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For further information on factors that could impact ATK, and statements contained herein, please refer to ATK's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
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When Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets lawmakers this week as part of his four-day trip to Washington, they will want reassurances from him that he is committed to tackling corruption and ensuring U.S. taxpayer funds are not wasted.
Obama has asked for $33 billion more to help fund 30,000 extra U.S. soldiers being sent to Afghanistan this year. He wants $4.5 billion more for beefed-up foreign aid and civilian operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year; about $2 billion of that amount is dedicated to Afghanistan.
Congress is expected to approve the new money but appears to be in no hurry. Following are the costs to U.S. taxpayers so far, as well as some of the future funding needed.
COSTS SO FAR
Congress has approved $345 billion so far for the war in Afghanistan, where the United States invaded to fight al Qaeda and topple the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. This figure is from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which says that about $22 billion has gone for Afghan-war-related activities in other countries.
COMPARISON WITH IRAQ
About twice as much money -- $708 billion -- has gone to the war in Iraq so far, CBO says.
But Afghanistan is becoming the more expensive battleground, as the pace of U.S. military operations slows in Iraq and quickens in Afghanistan.
The current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is the first year that more money has been allocated to Afghanistan ($72.3 billion) than Iraq ($64.5 billion), according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan budget research group that examines congressional appropriations.
MONEY FOR AFGHANISTAN'S MILITARY AND POLICE FORCES
Included in the money spent on Afghanistan so far is more than $25 billion for training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces -- the army and police, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Obama wants another $14.2 billion for this purpose for the rest of this year and next; the idea is to leave behind security forces that can take on the responsibility of fighting the Taliban as U.S. forces start to leave.
FUTURE MILITARY COSTS
Future expenses are a question mark, partly because troop levels are uncertain. Obama says he wants to start withdrawing forces from Afghanistan in mid-2011, but that will depend, in part, on conditions on the ground. No departure deadline has been set.
Estimates of the cost per troop per year in Afghanistan vary from $500,000 to $1 million depending on whether expenditures on troop housing and equipment are included along with pay, food and fuel. Medical costs for the injured and veterans' compensation balloon as time goes on.
FOREIGN AID AND CIVILIAN SURGE
Foreign aid, including food and development assistance, to Afghanistan has totaled some $17 billion since 2002, according to Department of State and Congressional Research Service documents.
But future expenses in this area are also a question mark that is expected to linger after the military one. "As President Obama made clear, our civilian engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan will endure long after our combat troops come home," the State Department said in its justification for its supplemental budget request this year.
That request includes $2 billion in 2010 to help fund a "civilian stabilization strategy" to deliver more economic assistance to Afghanistan, especially in its agricultural sector. Part of the idea is to create jobs that will draw insurgents off the battlefield in Afghanistan. (Editing by Sue Pleming andCynthia Osterman)
Those include a fully entrenched Taliban enemy, reluctance of allies to commit enough trainers to instruct Afghan forces, rampant Afghan corruption and a lack of legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai's government.
Here are some questions and answers about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and the main obstacles ahead, expected to be key discussion points for Karzai's visit to Washington this week.
IS THE TROOP 'SURGE' ON TRACK?
Yes. More than half of the 30,000 additional forces pledged by Obama in December have arrived in Afghanistan and the rest are expected to be in place by the end of August.
The extra U.S. troops are central to a campaign to gain full control of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan's largest city and the spiritual home of the Taliban movement.
The U.S. military hopes to deliver a victory in Kandahar when the Obama administration reviews progress in the war in December. Obama plans to start drawing down forces in July 2011.
HAVE THE EXTRA FORCES HURT THE TALIBAN?
That is not clear. The surge has put the Taliban under increased pressure, most notably with a February offensive to take the city of Marjah in southern Afghanistan. A top Defense Department official said the Taliban was losing momentum.
But even the Pentagon acknowledges the Taliban saw 2009 as its strongest year to date. A Pentagon report released last week said the Taliban's reach was still expanding in Afghanistan and it is increasingly able to launch sophisticated, deadly attacks.
No U.S. official is yet prepared to say momentum has shifted in the nearly nine-year-old war.
ARE ALLIES CONTRIBUTING MORE TROOPS?
Yes, but allies are not moving quickly enough for the U.S. timetable. This has been a particular worry given the need to quickly ramp up the size of Afghan forces to prepare for an eventual handover.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, concerned about a lack of trainers from allies, recently decided to deploy an additional 850 U.S. trainers to Afghanistan. That is a temporary deployment due to end by September and should not take the "surge" above 30,000.
IS THE U.S. MEETING TRAINING GOALS?
The Afghan National Army counted 112,779 troops by the end of March, above the target for that month of 112,700. The Afghan National Police totaled 102,138, above a goal of 99,261.
Longer-term goals for the army are 134,000 by October 2010 and 171,600 by October 2011. Goals for the police are 109,000 by October 2010 and 134,000 by October 2011.
There are risks to those larger goals. The Afghan army lacks qualified officers, who require much more training than new recruits -- no small task in a nation with soaring illiteracy rates. There is greater concern over the police force, still considered to be largely untrained, corrupt and 15 percent of which test positive for drug use.
ANY PROGRESS ON CORRUPTION?
The U.S. military is deeply concerned about a perceived lack of legitimacy by the Afghan government.
Gains on the battlefield securing towns and cities for the Afghan state are not expected to be sustainable if the population opposes the Kabul-based government. This is a core principle of the counter-insurgency strategy backed by the Obama administration.
A Pentagon report released to Congress this month said the political will to tackle corruption "remains doubtful." The Pentagon also said the population only supported Karzai's government in 29 of the 121 Afghan districts considered most strategically important in the war.
ARE THERE FEWER CIVILIAN DEATHS?
The Pentagon believes accidental killings of civilians pose one of the greatest risks to U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and the top U.S. and NATO commander has sought to limit the number of casualties.
But high-profile incidents still happen regularly and the Pentagon has acknowledged that NATO forces killed 49 civilians between October and March. (Editing by Sue Pleming and Chris Wilson)
* Both sides seek to show united front
* Pressure on governance and corruption
* Planning for peace "jirga" and Kabul meeting
By Sue Pleming
Karzai will get the red-carpet treatment during his four-day visit, including a Rose Garden news conference with President Barack Obama on Wednesday when the two are expected to exchange smiles and warm handshakes.
In private, however, the message from Obama is expected to be firm -- that Washington wants to start pulling out U.S. troops from Afghanistan from July 2011 and Karzai must do a better job on governance issues and tackling corruption.
"Where we think more needs to be done, we'll communicate that directly to the Afghans, and also aim to support positive movement on issues related to corruption and governance in ways that we can," said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
The White House concedes there have been "ups and downs" in the relationship, referring to recent testy exchanges with Karzai following anti-Western comments he made, including putting much of the blame for corruption on foreign donors.
In an editorial in The Washington Post on Sunday, Karzai also said there had been "our share of disagreements" but sought to set a positive tone for his visit.
"What has kept us together is an overriding strategic vision of an Afghanistan whose peace and stability can guarantee the safety of the Afghan and the American peoples," Karzai wrote.
Karzai said good governance and rooting out corruption were among his top priorities, promising to "do more" -- a demand lawmakers will press when he visits Capitol Hill.
Experts said it was important to show recent tensions were behind them as both sides needed each other.
"I am confident both presidents have it within them to take that deep breath and to use this visit to move forward as partners," said former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq Ryan Crocker.
Karzai has his own concerns and is expected to raise the issue of civilian casualties as well as a growing worry among many Afghans that U.S. commitment to the country will wane quickly once it starts withdrawing troops.
Nearly all of Karzai's Cabinet will be in Washington for the four days of meetings -- emulating the "strategic dialogue" held in March with Pakistan that was aimed at showing deeper, long-term ties between the two countries.
Karzai's visit comes at an important juncture in the war, with 30,000 additional U.S. troops expected there by the end of August and an upcoming military offensive to take full control of Kandahar, the spiritual hub of the Taliban in the South.
More immediately, there will be a so-called grand council of Afghans, or peace "jirga," planned in Kabul from May 29 to discuss how to make peace with the insurgents and Obama is looking for more details on how that will pan out.
The United States has made clear that only those senior Taliban leaders who renounce violence and ties to al Qaeda should be brought in and would prefer for there to be more gains on the battlefield before then.
A draft peace proposal by the Afghan government indicates Taliban leaders may be offered exile overseas in third countries in an effort to persuade insurgents to end the war.
Another focus will be on planning for an international conference on Afghanistan due in Kabul in late July as well as September parliamentary elections.
In addition, Karzai will be looking for greater action against sanctuaries for insurgents in neighboring Pakistan which he said was "harming our cause."
Washington has been putting more pressure on Islamabad to tackle sanctuaries both for the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban, the group suspected of being behind a foiled attack on Times Square this month. (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)