- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

The United States has no long-term commitment to Afghanistan other than to root al Qaeda from the war-torn nation, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday.

Mrs. Clinton also cautioned that the U.S. was not interested in propping up a corrupt government and reiterated U.S. demands that the recently returned government of Hamid Karzai take clear steps to increase transparency and reduce corruption.

“We’re not interested in staying in Afghanistan. We have no long-term stake there. We want that to be made very clear,” Mrs. Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The former first lady also said the United States would cut off civilian aid to the Afghan government if there is no advances against corruption, including an anti-corruption tribunal and panel.

“I have made it clear that we’re not going to be providing any civilian aid to Afghanistan unless we have a certification that if it goes into the Afghan government in any form, that we’re going to have ministries that we can hold accountable,” Mrs. 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.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mrs. Clinton said that “we’ve got some very specific ‘asks’ that we will be making” in anti-corruption efforts, though she did not elaborate.

Mrs. Clinton’s statements come as President Obama inches closer to a decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan - a critical strategy choice on how to end what has become an eight-year war.

Mr. Obama promised a quick decision on the matter Friday, at the start of his first trip as president to Asia. He was met by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s declaration that Japan would no longer refuel ships supplying Afghanistan but would continue to provide other forms of civilian aid.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a strategy to start drawing British troops out of Afghanistan as soon as Afghan security forces can secure the country but offered no timeline for the drawdown.

Mr. Obama has faced ever-growing pressure to make a decision since news of U.S. forces commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s call for up to 60,000 additional troops leaked to the media.

Since then, many Republicans and a handful of Democratic lawmakers have pushed for full support of the McChrystal request, but some liberal Democrats have maintained their push for a specific timetable to bring troops home.

“What we’re a little frustrated with [is] during the campaign last year, the president said the Iraq war was the bad war and the Afghan war was the good war,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We are a little bit perplexed about the length of time it’s taking to make this decision.”

On ABC, Mrs. Clinton criticized the George W. Bush administration for not crafting a successful strategy in Afghanistan.

“We came to do a mission,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Unfortunately, it was not achieved in the last eight years. In fact, the mission was changed because it could not be achieved, or it no longer was the primary goal that was expressed in the prior administration.”

She also criticized the Bush administration - albeit more vaguely - for engaging in nation-building in Afghanistan and said the Obama team would not focus on that.

“This is not the prior days when people would come on your show and talk about how we were going to help the Afghans build a modern democracy and build a more functioning state and do all of these wonderful things,” she told host George Stephanopoulos. “That could happen. But our primary focus is on the security of the United States of America.”

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