(Updates with Tajik foreign minister)
KABUL, Jan 21 (Reuters) - U.S. General David Petraeus met Afghan President Hamid Karzai overnight, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, after the regional military chief said deals had been made on new transport routes into Afghanistan from Central Asia.
The U.S. military has had to look at new ways to help supply its troops in the landlocked country from the north after Taliban militants have attacked and torched dozens of trucks carrying supplies on the main route through Pakistan.
That need to supplement the Pakistan route is even more great now as the President Barack Obama is expected to soon approve plans to almost double the 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of his pledge to make the war one of his top priorities.
Petraeus arrived in the Afghan capital late on Tuesday from Pakistan after visiting Afghanistan’s northern neighbours Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. He met Karzai and left shortly afterwards, the U.S. military said.
Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister Khamrokhon Zarifi later told reporters that he and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon would soon visit Brussels where an agreement on the transit of NATO supplies could be struck.
“During our visit to Europe, to Brussels, next month we will finalise the negotiation process,” Zarifi said in Dushanbe.
In Kabul, Karzai’s office said in a statement that the Afghan president and Petraeus had discussed “how to effectively combat regional terrorism and the way to prevent civilian casualties and gain the trust of the people.”
The meeting came only hours after Karzai told parliament that civilians deaths at the hands of foreign troops was a main source of instability in Afghanistan.
Some 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, including around 450 by international forces, aid groups say. A rights group warned last week that if U.S. military procedures did not change, more foreign troops could mean more casualties. (Additional reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov in Dushanbe; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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