Two explosions on Saturday killed 19 people in two differentlocations, including one in front of the Defense Ministry in thecountry’s capital Kabul.”Yesterday’s bombings in the name of the Taliban were aimedat serving the foreigners and supporting the presence of theforeigners in Afghanistan and keeping them in Afghanistan byintimidating us,” Karzai said in a televised speech, who hasbeen in power since 2001.The terrorist acts coincided with Chuck Hagel’s first visit toKabul as the US Defense Secretary, in which he was meant to discussthe gradual reduction of America’s presence and the fates ofAfghans held in custody by US forces.”This attack was a message to him,” Taliban spokesmanZabiullah Mujahid said in the aftermath of the detonations.But this is not how Karzai saw the incidents.”Taliban leaders and representatives are talking with the USabroad every day,” he claimed.The Taliban, a radical Islamic movement that controls swathes ofthe country, refuses to recognize Karzai’s legitimacy.The Taliban has “strongly rejected” the accusations in anemail communiqué.The US and NATO forces commander in the country, General JosephDunford, also rebuffed Karzai’s allegations.“We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we haveshed too much blood over the last 12 years, to ever think thatviolence or instability would be to our advantage,” Dunfordsaid.Meanwhile, the US embassy in Kabul reminded Karzai that it hasnot even held talks with radicals following a breakdown innegotiations exactly a year ago, and insisted that it has “longsupported an Afghan-led process for Afghans to talk toAfghans”.Karzai has form of making dramatic anti-American statements –including referring to NATO troops as “pillaging occupiers”– whether out of personal frustration, or a desire to portrayhimself as a sovereign leader and not an American puppet to hisdomestic audience.Gen Dunford stated that he had never heard Karzai expresssimilar views to him in private.The explosions and the fallout appear to have derailed whatalready promised to be tumultuous talks between uneasyallies.Karzai and Hagel cancelled a joint news conference on Sunday,although US officials maintained that this was simply a securityprecaution, insisting the two men would still meetone-to-one.They have a lot to discuss, following a string of apparentdisagreements.The US has just reneged on a promise to hand over Bagram prison,in the east of the country, which harbors those US intelligencebelieves to be some of the most dangerous Talibaninsurgents.Although no official reason has been given, Karzai proclaimedlast week that “we know there are innocent people in these jails,and I will order their release, as much as I am criticized for it”,and the statement appears to have infuriated Washington.Karzai also recently admonished NATO forces for a raft ofalleged wrongdoings.He has demanded that US troops move out of the region of Wardak,which borders Kabul, after alleged incidents of torture andextrajudicial killings by US troops, which have been strenuouslydenied by the Pentagon.He also accused the US of directing CIA-trained localoperatives, to kidnap an Afghan student, before releasing him atthe Afghan President’s insistence. The US says that it has neithercaptured nor released anyone.The points of contention come amid a US withdrawal from themountainous country, after more than a decade at war.There are currently about 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan, butthat number will be halved next year. It is not clear how many willremain beyond that time.“We will tell the NATO where we need them, and under whichconditions. They must respect our laws. They must respect thenational sovereignty of our country and must respect all ourcustoms,” Karzai declared on Sunday.The US has poured billions of dollars into training localpolice, army and security forces, to ensure that order does notcollapse as soon as its ground forces leave. But the initiativeshave met with local resistance (with recruits frequently shootingtheir NATO mentors) and suspicion from Karzai, who says the neworganizations are opaque and are not under full command of hisgovernment.