Leaving Anticorruption to Karzai

To avoid sparking more tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Washington has decided to retool its anticorruption efforts in the country. The United States will now focus on lower-level targets, addressing corrupt local policemen or security contractors that are buying off insurgents, instead of going after the big guns. It will leave dealing with corruption in the higher levels of government, and in Karzai’s inner circle, to the Afghan president himself. U.S. officials will work behind the scenes to lobby for certain policies. Both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, commander of forces in Afghanistan, have called for less confrontational upper-level anticorruption efforts.

Petraeus meanwhile offered his praises to Kabul for Afghanistan’s parliamentary election over the weekend. Turnout was 40 percent, and Petraeus, in an ISAF statement, said that “the people of Afghanistan sent a powerful message” to extremists. He added that the Afghan security forces did an especially good job on security. There were 445 violent incidents compared to the 479 in last year’s presidential election.

On Friday, U.S. special envoy George Mitchell was in Lebanon as part of the Middle East peace process. He said that “without Lebanon there will not be comprehensive peace in this region.” But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has taken point on negotiations after Mitchell’s months of shuttle diplomacy, is the one really feeling the pressure. Clinton, Netanyahu and Abbas were unable to move past the sticky issue of settlement construction during last week’s talks.