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US warns Afghan leader’s comments threaten troops

KABUL — The top US commander in Afghanistan warned his troops to be ready for increased violence because of a series of anti-American statements by President Hamid Karzai, NATO said Thursday.

In an e-mail to commanders, General Joseph Dunford said the remarks could spur more insider attacks, days after members of Afghan security forces killed two US troops and a US contractor in separate shootings.

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‘‘We’re at a rough point in the relationship,’’ Dunford said in the e-mail, according to a senior US official, speaking anonymously to discuss the confidential communication.

After news of Dunford’s e-mail broke, Karzai’s office released a statement explaining the president’s earlier remarks.

‘‘My recent comments were meant to help reform, not destroy the relationship,’’ the statement quotes Karzai saying Thursday. ‘‘We want good relations and friendship with America, but the relationship must be between two independent nations.’’

Karzai did not back down or retract his earlier statements, instead saying the relationship ‘‘is complicated’’ by ‘‘terrorism, the transition of the Bagram detention facility, continued civilian casualties, and lack of respect for the national sovereignty of Afghanistan.’’

Karzai’s statement may do little to soothe US officials’ unease. Over the weekend, the Afghan leader accused the United States of colluding with the Taliban on suicide attacks to keep the country unstable and give foreign forces an excuse to stay beyond their 2014 mandate. His remarks followed two suicide attacks that killed at least 19 Afghans on Saturday, coinciding with the first official visit by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Karzai also cautioned this week that the delay in handing over a US-run detention center to Afghan control ‘‘could harm bilateral relations.’’

He told the audience Thursday that ‘‘innocent people are still being held by foreigners’’ at the Bagram facility, forcing their children to ‘‘go begging’’ without their fathers at home. His remarks came after he and Dunford met on Wednesday to discuss the issue but failed to resolve the impasse.

Dunford and other top US officials have rejected Karzai’s allegations of collusion with the Taliban.

Dunford’s warning to his troops showed the deep US concern that Karzai’s words could go beyond angry rhetoric and spark violence targeting US forces, a threat that could harm the larger relationship.

NATO released a statement explaining the missive, saying it ‘‘routinely conducts assessments and adapts its protection posture to ensure our forces are prepared to meet potential threats.’’ The statement calls Dunford’s e-mail ‘‘prudent given increased coalition casualties in recent days.’’

Dunford also said unusually warm weather could mean an early start to the Taliban fighting season because militants can return from now-open high mountain passes from Pakistan.

In the latest insider attack, an Afghan police officer jumped onto the back of a parked police truck on Monday, grabbed a mounted heavy machine gun, and opened fire on Afghan and US troops in eastern Wardak Province.

Four members of the Afghan security forces were killed along with two US troops.

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