Clinton wants tangible Afghan progress from Karzai

Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:09am EST

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to “do better” if he wanted U.S. support, and that included creating a major crimes tribunal and anti-corruption commission.

“We’re going to be doing what we can to create an atmosphere in which the blood and treasure that the United States has committed to Afghanistan can be justified and can produce the kind of results that we’re looking for,” Clinton said in an interview with ABC News from Singapore.

President Barack Obama is expected in the coming weeks to announce a new strategy for Afghanistan, including sending in up to 40,000 more troops to fight the eight-year-old war.

“Now, we believe that President Karzai and his government can do better. We’ve delivered that message,” Clinton told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” show.

“Now that the election is finally over, we’re looking to see tangible evidence that the government, led by the president but going all the way down to the local level, will be more responsive to the needs of the people, will deliver the services that the people of Afghanistan want,” Clinton said.

A central question as Obama debates sending in more troops is whether Karzai can be a credible partner in the war and tackle his government’s corruption and mismanagement, which is seen as fueling the Taliban.

Karzai, due to be inaugurated this week after August’s fraud-plagued election, has come under pressure from the Obama administration to do a better job if he wants to sustain U.S. support in a war that is increasingly unpopular with the American public.

The United States expected there to be a major crimes tribunal and an anti-corruption commission established by Afghanistan’s government, Clinton said.

“There does have to be actions by the government of Afghanistan against those who have taken advantage of the money that has poured into Afghanistan in the last eight years so that we can better track it and we can have actions taken that demonstrate there’s no impunity for those who are corrupt,” she said.

DISSENT OVER TROOPS

Last week, it emerged that Obama’s own ambassador to Kabul, former military commander Karl Eikenberry, had expressed deep concerns in memos to the president about sending in more troops until Karzai’s government improved its performance.

Clinton, who declined comment on Eikenberry’s classified memos, said she had made it very clear, for example, that the United States would not provide civilian aid to Afghanistan’s government unless there was “certification” that it went through ministries that could be held accountable.

So far, the United States has dedicated about $40 billion — about half of that on security projects — to rebuilding Afghanistan.

The U.S. chief inspector for Afghanistan told Reuters last week that oversight and controls for that massive infusion of money had been “sloppy” so far and there needed to be more accountability for those U.S. taxpayer funds.

Clinton, who is traveling with Obama on his weeklong trip to Asia, said the U.S. president had gone the “extra mile” to make sure that he took the right decision over Afghanistan and to ensure that al Qaeda and its militant allies were defeated.

“We do not want to see Afghanistan return to being a safe haven and a staging platform for terrorism as it was before. That is what is driving the president to make the best decision he can make,” she said.

White House senior advisor David Axelrod on Sunday defended Obama’s prolonged review of Afghanistan policy, including troop strength, saying the president “is determined to get Afghanistan right.”

In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Axelrod said an “exit strategy” for U.S. troops from Afghanistan was an obvious concern. “We cannot make an open-ended commitment.”

“We want to do this in a way that maximizes our efforts against al Qaeda, but within the framework of bringing our troops home at some point,” Axelrod said.

[original]

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