LONDON, Nov 6: Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Afghanistan’s government is corrupt and he will not risk more British lives there unless it reforms.
Brown said in a speech that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had assured him “that the first priority of his new government would be to take decisive action against corruption”. He said the government of Afghanistan had become a by-word for corruption, “and I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm’s way for a government that does not stand up against corruption”.
Brown warned that the West could withdraw support for Karzai if he failed to live up to its expectations in his second term in power. He said he had spoken to the Afghan president, whose re-election was confirmed this week, several times in recent days and urged him to make progress on five key issues, from security to governance and economic development. “If the government fails to meet these five tests, it will not only have failed its own people, it will have forfeited its right to international support,” Brown said in a speech in London.
He said he had urged Karzai to draw up a new anti-corruption law, with a new commission advised by a high-profile international figure to investigate and prosecute graft, as well as new rules for the transparent award of contracts.
In addition, the prime minister gave a warning on Karzai’s government appointments, saying: “Cronies and warlords should have no place in the future of a democratic Afghanistan. Sadly, the government of Afghanistan has become a by-word for corruption. And I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm’s way for a government that does not stand up against corruption.”
Brown was speaking after a bloody week for British troops in Afghanistan in which seven soldiers died, five of them shot by an Afghan policeman, and amid declining public confidence at home that the war can be won.
The prime minister repeated his argument that British troops were there to keep Britain safe, saying three-quarters of terrorist plots originate from the Afghan-Pakistan border and the fight against Al Qaeda there “must not fail”. “We cannot, must not and will not walk away,” he said.
But he said more Afghan troops were needed, adding: “The first priority of any government is to provide security for its people. It is not sustainable to subcontract that task indefinitely to the international community. “So the expansion and training of the Afghan army and police must be the new government’s first priority.”
About 9,000 British troops are in Afghanistan as part of an international coalition, following the US-led invasion of the country in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.