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Karzai Calls on Afghans to Take Charge of Own Security by 2014

July 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JIM LEHRER:The president of Afghanistan appealed for greater global support at today’s Kabul conference on security and development. And, as he spoke, the country’s problems were underscored by events outside the Afghan capital.

President Karzai addressed representatives from dozens of nations and organizations. And he called again for Afghans to take charge of their own security nationwide by 2014.

HAMID KARZAI, president of Afghanistan: Our goal is to transform the three organs of our national security forces into trusted national institutions dedicated to fulfilling their constitutional duty and to ensure the integrity and security of our country.

JIM LEHRER:Karzai’s date of 2014 is more than three years after American troops are supposed to start a drawdown under President Obama’s timetable.

But at the Kabul conference, Secretary of State Clinton insisted the U.S. has no intention of abandoning Afghanistan.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. secretary of state: The July 2011 date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve. The transition process is too important to push off indefinitely, but this date is the start of a new phase, not the end of our involvement.

JIM LEHRER: The Obama administration has been wary of Karzai’s recent willingness to hold peace talks with the Taliban leadership. Today, the Afghan leader took a harder line toward the militants.

HAMID KARZAI: We face a vicious common enemy that violates every Islamic and international norm to break our unity of effort. They would like nothing better than to create uncertainty, to force our publics to doubt our staying power and our determination.

JIM LEHRER: In turn, the foreign minister from neighboring Iran argued it’s already clear that foreign forces in Afghanistan will not deter the Taliban.

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, Iranian foreign minister (through translator): Despite the increase in military forces, the security situation is getting more dangerous. It is hard to envision a future in which the situation improves. According to official statistics, insecurity has increased significantly since last year.

JIM LEHRER: For the conference, at least, security was tight in Kabul, with police adding checkpoints throughout the city and closing major intersections.

But, in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military base, killing two American civilians and two Afghan troops. And two more NATO troops, one of them an American, were killed in the south. That made 43 U.S. deaths this month, after 60 were killed in June.

The violence has also hindered development efforts across Afghanistan. And the British foreign secretary underscored concerns about corruption, as Karzai appealed for foreign aid to go directly through his government.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: We will always need to see that the government is making the best possible use of our and its own money. This means continuing on a path of improved financial management and budget execution, as well as tackling corruption at all times.

JIM LEHRER:In the end, though, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said today’s conference marked the beginning of a crucially important transition.

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations secretary-general: We will now take the lead in shaping the country’s future. Afghans will set the priorities and decide which to path — which path to follow. The international community will play a supporting role.

JIM LEHRER:And, in Washington, President Obama and visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron also praised the gathering in the Afghan capital.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The Kabul Conference shows that the Afghan — that Afghanistan has the support of the international community, including the United States, which will remain a long-term partner for the security and progress of the Afghan people.

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: Over 40 foreign ministers and 80 delegations assembled in Kabul to monitor progress and drive forward the international strategy. That is a real achievement, and we should congratulate President Karzai on it.

JIM LEHRER:The conference endorsed channeling half of all development aid through the Afghan government within two years. In exchange, the Karzai regime must crack down on graft.