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Karzai's inauguration and Obama's demand for action on corruption

The Karzai inauguration came with promises to fight graft. The US must be patient as long as he delivers.

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One possible motive for President Obama's long delay in announcing a new US strategy in Afghanistan may be this: He first wants to see tangible steps against corruption by President Hamid Karzai.

That has meant Mr. Obama had to wait well past the flawed Aug. 20 elections and then later Mr. Karzai's admission of massive fraud in the ballot count. Only now, just before his inauguration Thursday to a second five-year term, did Karzai finally make fresh promises to rein in graft. One pledge includes new anticorruption units among police, prosecutors, and judges.

But then, after the swearing-in, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked him to make these units "credible" with "follow through." And the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, said "deeds are required."

One deed in high demand is the appointment of "clean" cabinet officials and others by Karzai, down to the provincial level. That would necessarily include the sidelining of corrupt warlords that Karzai brought into his political tent in order to get reelected.

Obama makes an implied threat of withholding US troops and aid to Afghanistan if Karzai doesn't produce a government that is seen as moving strongly against corruption, or as Ms. Clinton put it, a "new compact with the people of Afghanistan."


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