The White House warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday to end corruption or be marginalised as the US begins bypassing his administration to work directly with local officials who can "combat corruption and deliver for the people".
AFP - The White House on Wednesday warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to fight corruption or see Washington bypass his cabinet and seek out lower level officials to provide essential services to Afghans.
The warning -- coming a day after Obama said the US government would no longer give Afghanistan a "blank check" for US aid -- turned up the pressure on Karzai to end the corruption seen as fueling the Taliban insurgency.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama talked "about the notion that it is time for a new chapter in Afghan governance" in conversations with Karzai, including a secure videoconference late Monday.
When he unveiled his new Afghan strategy in a speech on Tuesday, Obama made it clear he expected major changes from the Karzai government's status quo, and outlined several steps he wanted them to take.
"The days of providing a blank check are over," Obama said in the speech, noting that Karzai sent the "right message about moving in a new direction" when he was inaugurated last month as president for another term.
"And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance," Obama said.
"We'll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable," the president added.
"And we will also focus our assistance in areas -- such as agriculture -- that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people."
Gibbs on Wednesday took the warning a step further.
"If President Karzai is unable or unwilling to make changes in corruption or governance... we will identify people at a sub-cabinet level, at a district level that can implement the types of services and basic governance, without corruption, that Afghans need."
The White House spokesman said the Obama administration will also be watching whom Karzai chooses for his cabinet.
And he said Obama, in his speech, put forward a "strong incentive" for the Karzai government to "get its act together" by highlighting July 2011, when US forces are now expected to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.
In her testimony Wednesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration has "real concerns about the influence of corrupt officials in the Afghan government, and we will continue to pursue them."
Clinton also recalled Karzai's remarks at his inauguration, which she attended in Kabul, following his victory in the fraud-marred August elections.
"He (Karzai) pledged to combat corruption, improve governance, and deliver for the people of his country. His words were long in coming, but welcome. They must now be matched with action," the chief US diplomat told senators.
"We will help by working with our Afghan partners to strengthen institutions at every level of Afghan society so that we don't leave chaos behind when our combat troops begin to depart," Clinton said.
Date created : 2009-12-03