WASHINGTON - A US State Department spokesman Friday side-stepped a question whether President Barack Obama had asked Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah not to interfere with President Ashraf Ghani’s constitutional powers, saying Obama regularly speaks to the two leaders to discuss important issues.

“We continue to support and welcome cooperation between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah in advancing the National Unity Government’s reform agenda to bring security and stability to the Afghan people,” spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the daily press briefing.

According to Afghan press reports, Obama held a video conference meeting with President Ghani and CEO Abdullah during which the US president pressed the Afghan CEO not to exceed his authority and refrain from interfering in President Ghani’s constitutional powers.

Kirby told the questioner, “What I would tell you is that – again, without getting into details of conversations in another arm of government here – the president regularly speaks with President Ghani and with Chief Executive Abdullah to discuss security, governance, other bilateral and regional issues.

“We were pleased to see the recent agreement on the Afghan government’s appointment of a new attorney general, a new minister of the interior and new leadership of the High Peace Council. We continue to support and welcome cooperation between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah in advancing the National Unity Government’s reform agenda to bring security and stability to the Afghan people.”

But the spokesman declined to be specific about whether the US leader complained to the CEO that he was interfering with the president Ghani’s constitutional duties.

Reuters adds: The US general who until last week commanded the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan said on Friday he recommended broader scope for US military activity as the country fends off a resilient Taliban insurgency.

Army General John Campbell declined to disclose the specific powers he requested from President Barack Obama’s administration before he stepped down as part of a normal leadership transition. But he expressed a sense of urgency, “otherwise it’s not going to impact” the war in 2016.

“I’m not going to get more people. So the only way that I can impact is potentially change some of the authorities we have. So authorities deal with: what you can strike, what you can’t strike, at what levels you can do train, advise, assist,” Campbell told a group of reporters at the Pentagon.

“So I’ve asked for some modifications.” The incoming commander, General John Nicholson, will also get to weigh in on the matter, Campbell said.

Campbell acknowledged frustrations over the lengthy bureaucratic process behind decision-making in Washington, something other Pentagon chiefs, including Obama’s three past defence secretaries, have also noted.

“But I would tell you with President Obama - every time I would get to the president, I got the decision I was really looking for,” he said. Since Campbell’s arrival in Afghanistan in 2014, Obama has rolled back some of his drawdown plans as Taliban militants made gains, Islamic State established a nascent presence and casualties increased among Afghan security forces.

The Obama administration also gave US forces broader authority to hit Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, who Campbell said probably numbered closer to 1,000 than 3,000 fighters.

Campbell’s successor, Nicholson, inherits a conflict that is testing Afghan security forces and the roughly 13,000 international troops who remain, with insurgents contesting or controlling as much as a third of Afghanistan.

US rules for engagement are far more limited in Afghanistan since NATO ended its combat mission in 2014.

Campbell acknowledged that even with new authorities, much would come down to the performance of Afghan forces, who he said needed to continue to come off checkpoints and become more maneuverable as they seek to push back the Taliban. “We could have all the authorities we want. If the Afghans aren’t doing what they need to do, it’s not going to make a difference,” he said, even as he lauded their efforts so far.