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When Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrives in Washington today, he'll bring quite a bit of baggage.

For several months, Karzai and the Obama administration's relationship has been strained.

Before President Obama's visit to Afghanistan in March, Jim Jones, the national security adviser, said the White House was concerned Karzai was doing too little to battle government corruption and Afghanistan's narcotics trade. The Afghan leader fired back that the US and other western nations committed fraud in last year's controversial elections and were working to keep him from being re-elected.

This week's meetings appeared in danger after news reports last month that Karzai said in a meeting with Afghan lawmakers that he would consider joining the Taliban. Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said some of Karzai's comments were 'troubling' and the White House would re-evaluate whether his trip to Washington would be constructive. Karzai denied that he ever made the comments.

Both sides have turned down the rhetoric in recent days, but administration officials made it clear they'll be pushing Karzai to do more to stem corruption and increasing violence.

'More needs to be done in certain areas, and that's a view that we think is shared by the Afghans,' said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

The four-day visit, which will include a meeting Wednesday with Obama, comes at a critical time.

Violence is at an all-time high in the 9-year-old war. In the first three months of the year, the number of roadside bombs targeting US servicemembers increased by 16 per cent; 115 US servicemembers have been killed this year, according to the Pentagon.