April 18th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Panetta on Karzai: Trust but "watch your back"

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he is cautious about dealing with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. In an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Panetta said even though he has concerns, the U.S. has been able to deal with him on "major issues."

Here's the transcript:

BLITZER: You trust Afghan president, Mr. Secretary, Hamid Karzai?

PANETTA: He - he is the leader of Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Do you trust him?

PANETTA: Well, I mean I - I've sat down with him. I talk with him. We talk pretty frankly with each other. And, you know, he is - he is the the leader and he is the person we have to deal with.

BLITZER: Does that mean you trust him?

PANETTA: Well, I mean, certainly, you know, you - you trust the leaders that you - you have to deal with. But you always kind of watch your back at the same time.

BLITZER: That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement of the leader of Afghanistan.

PANETTA: Well, you know, it's - it's true for any leader we deal with. You know, you're...

BLITZER: But this one has said awful things about the United States.

PANETTA: No, I understand. And, obviously, that's been - that's been a concern. But at the same time, we have had the ability to directly relate to him when it comes to some of the major issues that we've had to confront.

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