Clinton sets benchmarks for progress in Afghanistan

By John Amick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 15, 2009; 12:38 PM

Recognizing that the potential instability of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government remains a main obstacle to an effective American strategy in the region, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today touted broad accountability procedures in Afghanistan that will aim to combat corruption.

"I have made it clear that we're not going to be providing any civilian aid to Afghanistan unless we have the certification that if it goes into the Afghan government in any form, that we're going to have ministries that we can hold accountable," Clinton said today on ABC's "This Week." "We are expecting there to be a major crimes tribunal, an anti-corruption commission established and functioning, because 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."

Regardless of any new benchmarks for the Afghan government, Clinton said that America's security will be the number-one priority for any Obama administration decision in Afghanistan, stressing that president is intent on following a thoughtful and deliberate course in re-evaluating strategy there.

"We agree that our goal here is to defeat al Qaeda," Clinton said. "We understand that the Afghans themselves need help in order to defend themselves against the Taliban. Those are mutually reinforcing missions, but our highest obligation is to the American people. It is to do everything we can to make sure that America is secure, that our allies, our interests around the world are protected. And that is what we're focused on."

Clinton acknowledged the role of Pakistan in combatting further al-Qaeda growth in the region.

"We have made it clear to the Pakistanis, as well as to the Afghans and others, that we want to do everything we can to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda," Clinton said.

Clinton stated that the goal in Afghanistan is obvious, but did not elaborate on how to halt the activities of a stateless, constantly-morphing entity like al-Qaeda.

"Our goal is very clear. We want to get the people who attacked us, and we want to prevent them and their syndicate of terrorism from posing a threat to us, our allies and our interests."

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