- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Afghanistan with a message for President Hamid Karzai: Clean up your corrupt government.

“There is now a clear window of opportunity for President Karzai to make a new compact with the people of Afghanistan - based on accountability and tangible results - and to forge a stronger partnership with the international community,” Mrs. Clinton said at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Mrs. Clinton, the highest-ranking member of the Obama administration to visit the war-torn country, arrived a day before Mr. Karzai’s inauguration for a second term. Transparency International, an organization that rates countries according to business practices, this week labeled Afghanistan the second most corrupt nation in the world after Somalia, a failed state.

Mr. Karzai on Monday announced the creation of an anti-corruption unit and is expected to address the issue in his inaugural address, but U.S. officials are skeptical about implementation.

“President Karzai should seize this moment, and so should we,” Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday. “That is why President Obama is engaged in a careful and thorough review of our Afghanistan policy - evaluating the progress we’ve made, the challenges we still face and the best way forward to achieve our goals.”

Mrs. Clinton flew to Kabul from Beijing, where she accompanied Mr. Obama on his trip to Asia. Before he moved on to Seoul, Mr. Obama told CNN that he would announce the results of his Afghanistan review soon and that it would include an exit strategy to avoid “a multiyear occupation that won’t serve the interests of the United States.”

Mr. Obama said he wants to end the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by the time he leaves the White House, presumably after two terms. He did not say whether he planned to withdraw all U.S. forces by then.

“My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president,” he said. “One of the things I’d like is the next president to be able to come in and say, ‘I’ve got a clean slate.’ ”

Shortly after her arrival in Kabul, Mrs. Clinton met with the two U.S. officials who have given Mr. Obama different advice regarding sending more troops to Afghanistan - Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commanding U.S. general here, and Karl Eikenberry, a former commander and current U.S. ambassador to Kabul.

Gen. McChrystal reportedly is pushing for as many as 40,000 additional troops to be deployed, on top of 68,000 Americans already in Afghanistan, while Mr. Eikenberry argued in cables to Mr. Obama that were leaked to the press that more forces would only prop up a corrupt and weak government.

Mrs. Clinton has been to Afghanistan as a U.S. senator from New York. She praised the work of the U.S. Embassy and said the United States is “on track to having close to 1,000 American civilians here by the end of the year, tripling the number that we inherited back on Jan. 20.”

Mrs. Clinton is expected to meet with officials from other NATO countries providing about 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Germany announced Wednesday that it will extend the mandate for its more than 4,000 troops by a year beyond the current Dec. 13 deadline. The decision has to be approved by parliament, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition has a majority there.

“The new German government stands behind Germany’s international responsibility,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin.

Mr. Karzai begins his second term three months after presidential elections that international observers said were marred by massive fraud. An investigation backed by the United Nations declared about a third of his votes invalid.

A runoff was scheduled for earlier this month, but Mr. Karzai’s main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, pulled out of the race and Mr. Karzai was automatically declared the winner.

Even as Mrs. Clinton put pressure on Mr. Karzai to outline specific reforms, she said that he “has demonstrated a vision and commitment,” and “there is no doubt of his passion and patriotism about what he would like to see happen in Afghanistan.”

“If you are looking at social indicators, well-being of people, opportunities for women - it’s not all a one-sided negative story,” she said. “If we don’t recognize the progress that they believe has occurred, then we lose credibility in their eyes.”

The U.S. Congress has appropriated nearly $40 billion for civilian aid for Afghanistan since 2001, but much of it has not benefited the Afghan people, according to a report by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. The report, quoted by the Associated Press, cited corrupt practices ranging from selling government positions to bribes for basic services.

Ershad Ahmadi, the deputy director general of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan, told the AP that “corruption is a phenomenon that will not go away overnight. It is a problem that will continue to be with Afghanistan for a long time.”

“Until we achieve that sort of national awakening that business as usual is not in the interest of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, you will not be able to achieve success in your anti-corruption campaign,” Mr. Ahmadi said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide