May 22, 2005 | Broadcast

NBC Nightly News

The United Nations had some tough words for the US today, issuing a statement that called the alleged abuse of detainees at a US base in Afghanistan `utterly unacceptable.’ This comes just as Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai visited Boston today as he prepared to meet this week with President Bush. NBC’s Pat Dawson has that story.

PAT DAWSON reporting:

With his own country’s new democracy struggling to survive its infancy, President Karzai began his US visit in the cradle of American liberty, arriving in Boston with a message of thanks.

President HAMID KARZAI: Your boys, your daughters of America have been in our country helping our people stand back on their feet.

DAWSON: But as Karzai’s visit begins, the relationship has been strained by reports of alleged prisoner abuse by US troops in Afghanistan.

Pres. KARZAI: (From CNN) We want justice. We want the people responsible for this sort of brutal behavior punished and tried and made public.

DAWSON: Citing a US Army investigation, The New York Times reported that Afghan detainees had been routinely abused and that two prisoners might have died after being beaten by US Army personnel.

Mr. RICHARD PROVENCHER (United Nations Spokesman in Afghanistan): Such abuses are utterly unacceptable and are an affront to everything the international community stands for in Afghanistan.

DAWSON: In recent days, Karzai has praised the role of most US troops in helping establish Afghan democracy and has made it clear he wants a long-term strategic partnership with the US. But he also said he’ll tell President Bush he wants custody of Afghan prisoners and more influence over US military operation.

Three years after the overthrow of the Taliban, 16,000 US troops dominate the foreign force that still provides much of the security keeping Karzai’s government in power which forces the Afghan leader to walk a very precarious political line.

Keeping the US as an ally while maintaining the appearance of independence for the Muslim world where friendship with America can be a big problem. But the US-Afghan relationship cuts both ways.

Dr. WALID PHARES (Middle East Expert): President Bush needs President Karzai, period, to stay in power, to be in power to continue the war on terror. Let’s remember that the remnants of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda forces are still present.

DAWSON: Karzai needs US backing; the US wants a military presence in the region to fight terrorism. Maybe not a perfect marriage, but one which neither side can afford to lose. Pat Dawson, NBC News, New York.