Allies Pledge Support At Kabul Conference

More than 40 foreign ministers from around the world attended a donor's meeting in Afghanistan on Tuesday. The Kabul conference was a success by the most important measure set out by the organizers: There was no disruption by the insurgency that is raging in much of the countryside. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined other delegations in demonstrating support for President Hamid Karzai.

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Over 40 foreign ministers from around the world attended a donor's meeting in Afghanistan today. The Kabul conference was a success by the most important measure set out by its organizers. There was no disruption by the insurgency now raging in much of the countryside. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined other delegations in demonstrating support for President Hamid Karzai.

NPR's Quil Lawrence sent this report from Kabul about what was and what wasn't said at the conference.

QUIL LAWRENCE: The Afghan government billed the Kabul conference as different from previous donor meetings. The focus would not be pledging more money, but directing existing funds to the Afghan government for its development plan. Today, in a series of short speeches, dozens of delegates pledged not to leave Afghanistan alone, despite waning popularity for the war back home.

Secretary Clinton addressed the subject of the U.S. plan to begin a drawdown next summer.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): Now, 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. We have no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving the kind of Afghanistan that President Karzai set forth in his speech.

LAWRENCE: Clinton went on to list President Karzai's recent decrees against corruption in his government. She mentioned specifically a regulation against nepotism, although President Karzai has taken no steps to sideline his half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a power broker in the opium producing province of Kandahar.

The question of transparency weighed heavily on the conference, but there was none of the strident criticism of Karzai's government as in the past. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was confident that the Afghan government would provide more accountability in the future.

Secretary General BAN KI-MOON (United Nations): We have concern there's still there is a prevalence of corruptive practices all throughout the country. International community naturally expects this money should be properly used for the good purpose, planned purpose.

LAWRENCE: But President Karzai turned the issue around, insisting that the main source of corruption is international contracting. Karzai said that in the future his government must be notified of all civilian and military contracts. President Karzai's plan to negotiate with some factions of the insurgency was another dominant topic.

Secretary Clinton said the president had guaranteed to her that the rights of women and minorities would be protected in reconciliation process. But Karzai did not mention that in his remarks. The president did offer a proposed date for the withdrawal of foreign forces.

President HAMID KARZAI (Afghanistan): Afghanistan has specified its objectives: having the ability by 2014 to reach a level and strength and ability and capacity within our forces to provide for our own security. And we hope, accordingly, that the international community will help Afghanistan reach that objective.

LAWRENCE: That goal was endorsed by the assembled nations and it's in line with the clear desire of many NATO countries to bring their troops home. But Karzai either had not yet heard or failed to mention the news coming from the north of the country. It broke just as the conference concluded that an Afghan instructor had shot and killed two American training staff at a military base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. It's the second time in a week that an Afghan soldier has killed international troops he was meant to work with.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

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