August 20, 2010

Following Meeting With Chairman Kerry, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan Pledges To Allow Anti-Corruption Units to Operate Independently

Washington, DCFollowing a meeting on Friday in Kabul with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-MA), President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan pledged to allow two Afghan anti-corruption units to operate independently and free of political influence.

The two organizations, the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit, were involved earlier this month in the arrest of a Karzai administration official in connection with a corruption investigation. Both groups are mentored by U.S. law enforcement, but operate as independent Afghan entities.  

President Karzai had ordered a review of the task force and the investigative unit following the arrest. But in his first direct public remarks about the two units, the Afghan leader promised that the two organizations would be “independent – absolutely, in full terms – as Afghan bodies to continue the fight against corruption.”

Senator Kerry returned to Kabul after touring flood-damaged areas of Pakistan for Friday’s second round of talks on corruption and other issues with President Karzai. Senator Kerry delivered a strong message to the Afghan leader about the importance of tackling corruption in order to win the trust of the Afghan people and maintain the support of Congress and the American public. Senator Kerry described his series of conversations with the Afghan president as candid and “sometimes tough.”

“President Karzai reiterated that it was a key national security interest of Afghanistan to address corruption and its underlying causes comprehensively and across the board,” Senator Kerry said following Friday’s meeting with Karzai at Gul Khana Palace. “In this spirit, we agreed on the importance of strengthening the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit. This means ensuring that they always operate as independent entities, led by Afghans welcoming expert support, and can fully pursue their mission of enhancing transparency and combating corruption.”

Senator Kerry and President Karzai met twice on Tuesday, August 17, in Kabul to discuss corruption, the role of private security companies and related matters. Senator Kerry traveled to Pakistan, where he viewed the areas devastated by floods. He returned to Kabul for the second round of talks with the president on Friday.

Chairman Kerry issued the following statement after his meeting with President Hamid Karzai today in Kabul:

“Today, I concluded a candid and productive series of conversations with President Karzai, sometimes joined by Ambassador Eikenberry, National Security Advisor Spanta and Foreign Minister Rassoul.  We discussed many issues of common interest to Afghanistan and the United States and joint approaches to shared challenges, including the importance of eliminating  civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible as we confront the enemy, addressing the serious threat posed by sanctuary for insurgents, effectively advancing our joint objectives of combating corruption and improving the delivery of basic service to build confidence for the Afghan people, and eliminating private security contractors and parallel structures as soon as possible. 

“At this critical moment for Afghanistan, we emphasized the importance of strengthening our partnership and working cooperatively to meet the challenges ahead. We agreed on many key elements of the way forward. 

“We agreed that it was of primary importance for Afghans to take the lead as soon as possible, with coalition support, in securing their nation. 

“President Karzai reiterated that it was a key national security interest of Afghanistan to address corruption and its underlying causes comprehensively and across the board.  We recognized the positive steps taken by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and President Karzai in that effort to date, and the importance of continuing to follow up on key pledges made at the Kabul and London Conferences.

“In this spirit, we agreed on the importance of strengthening the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit.  This means ensuring that they always operate as independent entities, led by Afghans welcoming expert support, and can fully pursue their mission of enhancing transparency and combating corruption.  The President and I agreed that the work of these entities must be allowed to continue free from outside interference or political influence, including with respect to ongoing cases.  We recognized the necessity of ensuring that these organizations respect human rights and the Afghan constitution.  We agreed on the importance of providing a solid statutory basis for these entities, and agreed to work towards that goal as soon as possible.

“It was a constructive series of meetings which set forth a challenging set of priorities. The work of the days ahead, and the commitment of both sides to following through, will determine the ultimate success of our efforts.” 

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REMARKS TO THE PRESS

BY PRESIDENT OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN

HAMID KARZAI

AND U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY


GUL KHANA PALACE

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

AUGUST 20, 2010


PRESIDENT KARZAI:  Welcome, gentlemen and ladies of the press. You are most welcome today to this very important, frank and, as usual, very productive meeting between myself, members of my government and an extremely honored guest of ours, Senator Kerry – who is not only a friend of ours but one of the most prominent Senators and citizens of our ally, the United States of America.

During this trip of Senator Kerry, we discussed various ways of how, as soon as possible, we can give an end to civilian casualties, to address the question of parallel structures to the Afghan Government -- one of them was the private security firms, which, through a decree,  I called to eliminate within four months. That decision is final in the Afghan Government and I hope the international partners of ours will help in such regard.

We also discussed the questions of corruption and the consequences that it has for Afghanistan, for the war on terror, for the success of our efforts.  We understood the points of both sides that we should have a joint campaign against corruption.  I would like to make very clear here that I think at this stage it is very, very important for Afghanistan to have all the contracts revealed, whether those contracts are given by the international community to people in the Afghan Government -- to individuals, family members of the political leaders, the President, of the Vice Presidents, of the Ministers and other political leaders -- or whether they are contracts given by the Afghan Government, as well, to political circles and government officials or their relatives.  Both have to be investigated and clarified, made public.

We also discussed the issue of Afghan leadership and ownership and that the process should be expedited. And we would like to report today that we had an understanding on all of these issues, that towards the strengthening of our partnership. 

With regard to the anti-crimes task force and sensitive investigation body, which is of concern to the international community, which we have begun to look at, we will make sure that these bodies are run in accordance with Afghan laws, under the Afghan Constitution, and are sovereign as Afghan bodies and independent – absolutely, in full terms – as Afghan bodies, to continue to fight against corruption.

I think that is all that we were discussing and, Mr. Kerry, I would now refer to you, my dear friend, for any remarks. And welcome, once again, to Afghanistan.

SENATOR KERRY:  Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, I want to thank you and the members of your Government for a very generous welcome and I appreciate enormously the President’s personal hospitality and the time that he has spent with me, with Ambassador Eikenberry, with General Petraeus, talking through issues of enormous concern to both of our countries. Of particular note, the President has raised a number of critical issues of how we can improve the presence of the American forces here, the international forces here, and the prosecution of the efforts against insurgents.

The President has made some very important and sound recommendations to us about ways in which we can make this effort more effective.  I intend to return to Washington and convey those.  I’ve already had conversations with Secretary Clinton and with Ambassador Holbrooke and will convey each and every one of those recommendations by the President as to how we can make this effort here much more effective, how we can deliver services -- we can help the  Government of Afghanistan to do so.

President Karzai has also made the important point that it is the Government of Afghanistan that needs to be able to ultimately stand on its own two feet and deliver those services. He has made recommendations and we need to work at ways in which we can more rapidly help that to happen.

One of the issues that has been raised, publicly and otherwise, is the question of corruption. I was very heartened to hear the President and the members of his Government re-commit themselves to significant efforts in the days ahead to guarantee the independent operation of their major crimes unit, as an Afghan institution, a sovereign Afghan institution, which would welcome outside expertise, but which will be run in a way that is consistent with the Constitution.

The President has guaranteed that there will be action, there will be changes, there will be demonstrated activities over the course of the next weeks, months, that can give confidence to people that there is movement and accountability and transparency in that process. And I welcome that, Mr. President.

We also discussed the issues of neighbors, particularly Pakistan – the challenges of the sanctuaries in Western Pakistan. And I think, without going into them here and now, I would simply say that we arrived at some important conclusions that I will also carry with me back to Washington as to how we can improve that relationship, and ultimately, hopefully have a major impact on the conduct of activities in this region.

So, I thank the President again.  This was very candid, sometimes tough, conversation. But I think we came out of it with a terrific mutual understanding of ways in which we can both, jointly, make a difference and we look forward to doing so.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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