You’re an ally, Hillary Clinton tells Hamid Karzai

AMERICA has declared ­Afghanistan the United States’ newest “major non-Nato ally,” a statement meant to facilitate close co-operation after foreign combat troops withdraw in 2014.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton made the announcement shortly after arriving in Kabul for talks with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

“We see this as a powerful commitment to Afghanistan’s future,” she said at a news conference in the courtyard of Kabul’s Presidential Palace. “We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan.”

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Clinton insisted that progress was coming incrementally but consistently to the war-torn nation after decades of conflict. “The security situation is more stable,” she said. Afghan forces “are improving their capacity”.

Karzai welcomed Clinton and thanked the US for its continued support.

Clinton repeated the tenets of America’s “fight, talk, build” strategy for Afghanistan. This aims first to defeat dangerous extremists, win over Taleban militants and others willing to give up ­violence and help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Fighting still rages as Afghan and coalition forces ­battle insurgents.

Reconciliation efforts have failed to gain momentum, but Clinton said she was pleased to be meeting the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan together in Tokyo – a three-way relationship seen as key to stabilising Afghanistan.

From Kabul, Clinton and Karzai were heading separately to Japan for an international conference on Afghan civilian assistance.

Clinton stressed the importance of the pledges for civilian aid. Afghanistan’s cash-strapped government is heavily dependent on foreign largesse, and any significant drop-off in financial assistance after 2014 could set back the country’s development.

Asked about the systemic corruption that has plagued the Afghan government, Clinton said America was working hard with Afghan authorities to eliminate fraud, mismanagement and abuse. She said the meeting in Tokyo would include accountability measures to ensure that money sent to Afghanistan benefits the Afghan people.

“This is an issue the government and the people of Afghanistan want action on, and we want to ensure they are successful,” Clinton said.

Nations that once gave generously to Afghanistan are now seeking guarantees that their money will not be lost to corruption and mismanagement.

International donors claim many pledges to crack down on corruption have not beenimplemented. Some highly placed Afghan officials have been investigated for corruption but seldom prosecuted, and some of the investigations have come close to the president himself.