- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2009

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Afghanistan’s government on Friday to take action against corruption, saying he would not risk more British lives there unless it reforms.

Brown said in a speech that success in Afghanistan is vital to Britain’s security — but declared that if the Afghan government does not mend its ways it will forfeit the world’s support.

“I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm’s way for a government that does not stand up against corruption,” he said.

The speech comes after the deaths of seven British soldiers in the past week, including five who were shot by an Afghan police officer they were training. Corruption-marred presidential elections and rising casualties have undermined British support for the war.

Increasing violence in the country is also threatening the U.N. mission there. On Thursday, the world body said it was temporarily relocating more than half of its international staff while it looks for safer accommodation, following an attack last week on a guesthouse that killed five staffers.

Britain has promised to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan — though Brown said it was dependent upon progress in governance.

Brown said the government in Afghanistan had become a by-word for corruption, but noted that newly re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai had assured him that he would take decisive action against it.

Karzai has insisted that the government is redoubling its efforts to fight corruption, but his spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said that better cooperation between Afghan and international officials was needed to help tackle it.

Brown linked military action there to safety on Britain’s streets.

“We will not be deterred, dissuaded or diverted from taking whatever measures are necessary to protect our security,” Brown said.

Britain currently has about 9,000 troops in the country, the majority in the restive southern Helmand province. The force is the second-largest foreign one in the country after the United States.

Brown said Karzai “needs a contract with the Afghan people; a contract against which Afghans, as well as the international community, can judge his success.”

“International support depends on the scale of his ambition and the degree of his achievement in five key areas: security, governance, reconciliation, economic development, and engagement with Afghanistan’s neighbors,” Brown said.

“If the government fails to meet these five tests, it will have not only failed its own people, it will have forfeited its right to international support.”

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