Afghanistan: Karzai vowed to tackle corruption in his country
During his inauguration Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pledged to combat corruption and work with his main rivals.
However, there has been a controversial reaction so far, with some analysts and diplomats questioning whether Karzai really means to follow up his promises, which included calling for a traditional grand assembly – “loya jirga”.
Here are some excerpts from his speech to the nation:
“Those who spread corruption should be tried and prosecuted. Corruption is a very dangerous enemy of the state. We will soon organize a conference in Kabul to organize new and effective ways to combat this problem. Afghan ministers should be professional and servants of the people. The government officials should register their earnings.
We should learn from positive and negative lessons of the past elections and make the holding of elections absolutely Afghan in the future. The election law should be approved and implemented as soon as possible.”
“Afghan voters should know that only the votes of the people can legitimize the government. I am the servant of all the people of Afghanistan, from every ethnicity, every tribe, from every place, from every province – from every age, whether they are small children whether they are old people, women.
I call on all dear brothers, presidential candidates, to co-operate with me in building Afghanistan’s future. Here I would like to invite all presidential candidates, especially my brother Dr Abdullah Abdullah and my brother Dr Ashraf Ghani, who is present here, to make joint efforts for fulfilling serious national duties and for a united, proud and developed Afghanistan.”
“We are certain that Nato member states will take more effective steps to accelerate the readiness of the Afghan National Army and police. This is the only way that Afghanistan’s wish for the soldiers of our friends to return to their countries soon can come true, and for the Afghans themselves to take full responsibility of their security.
We hope that the Afghan forces will lead the task of security and stability throughout the country in the coming five years. It is the authority and responsibility of the Afghan government to detain suspects, send them to court and prosecute them.”
“We believe that our friendship with the US has not been confined to the common war on terror. In addition, the relationship has been based on long-term interests of Afghanistan to achieve stability and prosperity for the people of the country.
I am fully confident that the [Pakistani and Afghan] governments that have come to power through the votes of the people in the two countries will soon be able to overcome the problem of terrorism.
An international conference will soon be held in Kabul about co-operation between Afghanistan and the international community and for the start of a new chapter. This conference will once again reaffirm mutual responsibilities and commitments between Afghanistan and the international community.”
“We are trying our best to implement social, judicial and administrative reforms in our country. Being a president is a heavy task and we will try our best to honestly fulfil this task in the future.”
Here are some interpretations and impressions of what might lie ahead for Afghanistan, its allies, and for Karzai.
* Karzai’s inauguration speech was the most publicly repentant statement of his eight-year rule. In front of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he apologized if he had not fulfilled his promises and reiterated a pledge to tackle graft.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and other Western diplomats said Karzai is on the right track with his inauguration speech and this week’s announcement of a new anti-graft unit.
Others, however, said the speech gave no indication of any major shifts despite growing pressure from Western allies whose troops are fighting to defend his government.
“There was very little new in the inauguration speech and the message,” a Western official in Kabul said.
“We’ve heard all of these sentiments before. If you compare his last inauguration to this inauguration, you’ll see that there’s almost a 90 percent overlap in the issues that were raised,” the official said.
* Karzai said he wanted Afghan security forces to take over responsibility for the whole country from foreign troops within five years, with control of unstable areas within three years, but some see it as an ambitious pledge.
The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, has stressed the importance of strengthening and expanding the Afghan army and police force, paving the way for a gradual draw-down of foreign troops.
Karzai’s security pledge will be welcomed by Western countries with troops fighting in Afghanistan but it is a tall order. Violence this year has reached its worst levels since the Taliban’s overthrow in 2001 despite the number of foreign troops growing to about 110,000, including 68,000 Americans.
“I wouldn’t rule it out but it will be a tough challenge for the Afghan state to meet. We’re already eight years into this conflict and we haven’t made as much progress as anyone would have liked to have seen,” the Western official said.
The pledge was also timely, with U.S. President Barack Obama in the final stages of deciding whether to send tens of thousands more troops requested by McChrystal, who has said the outcome of the war could hinge on the new forces.
In some parts of Afghanistan, such as the relatively peaceful west, U.S. military commanders have said Afghan army brigades should be able to stand up by themselves within two years.
In Taliban strongholds like southern Helmand, one of the most dangerous and underdeveloped in Afghanistan, commanders say there is an urgent need for more Afghan police and army and that NATO-led troops carry far too much of the burden of the war.
* Karzai also said he wants his opponents and candidates who took part in the August 20 election to be included in his new government, a call for unity weakened by the fact a U.N.-backed probe found widespread vote fraud in favor of Karzai.
His main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, has reiterated he won’t be part of any Karzai administration. Abdullah, who emerged with an enhanced stature as opposition leader, withdrew from a planned run-off this month over fears of more election fraud.
Karzai has alienated other opponents, including former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani, who also cried foul during the August poll and is seen as a technocrat perfect for a cabinet post.
Making his cabinet representative of most political opponents is still seen as possible without Abdullah, especially after Karzai’s apology, but the West will likely continue to make its thoughts clear on who should be given certain key jobs.
Source: BBC News and Reuters