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U.S. tightens aid in Afghanistan

Mon., Nov. 16, 2009

WASHINGTON – The United States is limiting its goals in Afghanistan and demanding better accountability from that country’s underperforming leader, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday, and she tied additional U.S. civilian help to results from Kabul.

Clinton, an influential voice in deliberations about whether to add large numbers of U.S. troops to an unpopular eight-year war, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai can do more to reduce corruption and go after those who may have looted U.S. aid in the past.

“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,” she said.

The Obama administration wants a tribunal to prosecute major corruption crimes and a new anti-corruption commission, she said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

“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.

President Barack Obama is weighing ways to link the coming troops and money decision to better government performance in Afghanistan, but U.S. leverage is limited by the shifting objectives in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion and the history of sloppy accountability on both sides.

“We’re going to expect more from the Afghan government going forward and we’ve got some very specific asks that we will be making,” Clinton said in another interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” Both interviews were done from Asia, where Clinton is traveling with Obama.

Clinton did not spell out exactly what those “asks,” or demands, would be, beyond the tribunal and commission she mentioned on ABC. Congress has already required the administration to measure the performance of the Afghan government on several fronts, and the coming announcement is expected to expand on that effort.

Karzai government officials plan to hold a news conference today to underscore what it says are recent successes of its Counternarcotics Justice Task Force.

In addition, government spokesman Mohammad Arif Bahrami said the event will announce the opening of an Anti-Corruption Unit and Major Crime Force and highlight U.S. prosecutions of American citizens for corruption in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported Sunday that the Obama administration was also leaning on Pakistan to step up its fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida. Citing anonymous sources, the Times reported that Gen. James L. Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, was sent to Islamabad with a letter for Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari.

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