ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Robert Siegel.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And Im Madeleine Brand.
We go to London now. It's been playing host to an international conference on Afghanistan. Today, the president of Afghanistan laid out an ambitious agenda to fight corruption and win over some of the Taliban. Dozens of countries represented at the conference say they back him. Britain's prime minister says he hopes to turn the tide against the insurgency by the middle of next year.
NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai hit on all the themes that donors wanted to hear. He said he would make a big push to fight corruption in his country by streamlining the bureaucracy and empowering an oversight body. And he laid out plans to try to lure Taliban fighters away from the insurgency.
President HAMID KARZAI (Afghanistan): Reconciliation and reintegration is what Afghans agree on. We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers who are not part of al-Qaida or other terrorist networks, who accept Afghans' constitution. To do this we would establish a national council for peace and reconciliation.
KELEMEN: And donor nations will help pay, according to the host of today's conference, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Prime Minister GORDON BROWN (United Kingdom): We are today establishing an international trust fund to finance this Afghan-led peace and reintegration program, to provide an economic alternative to those who have none. But for those insurgents who refuse to accept the conditions of reintegration, we have no choice but to pursue them militarily.
KELEMEN: The idea of today's conference, Brown said, was not only to better coordinate international military and civilian efforts but also to set out a road map for a transition, putting Afghans in charge of their security district by district.
Karzai said he would spare no effort to try to be in a position for Afghans to take charge of security all over the country within five years.
Civil society activists raised doubts that Karzai will be able to deliver. And Wazhma Frogh, of the Afghan Women's Network, said she's particularly worried about the reconciliation efforts, saying the international community seems to be looking for an exit route and forgetting about how the Taliban terrorized women.
Ms. WAZHMA FROGH (Country Director, Global Rights; Afghan Women's Network): It's not that we are against peace or reconciliation. It's just that how can peace be brought without justice, without human rights, and without the half of the population's contribution? It's just impossible.
KELEMEN: At her news conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Frogh and several other women, all dressed in green headscarves, and made clear that the U.S. is committed to promoting women's rights. But she also backed plans to try to lure away Taliban foot soldiers and Karzai's plans to have a peace gathering known as a jirga.
Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): The starting premise is you don't make peace with your friends. You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency, or so marginalizes the remaining insurgents that it doesn't pose a threat to the stability and security of the people.
KELEMEN: Today's conference brought together donors and all of Afghanistan's neighbors, except for one: Iran didn't send its foreign minister, not even its ambassador in London. Britain called that inexplicable, and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, saw it as a missed opportunity.
Ms. CATHERINE ASHTON (Foreign Policy Chief, European Union): I think it would be nice if they had been there. I think people in the room were keen that they'd be invited and hoped that they would be here. They have an important role to play in the region.
KELEMEN: While Iran was absent, it was the topic of conversation in many of Secretary Clinton's meetings today as she pushes for more sanctions to pressure Iran to scale back its nuclear ambitions.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, London.
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