KABUL, Afghanistan — On an Afghanistan trip shrouded in secrecy, U.S. President Barack Obama demanded accountability from the country’s leaders, greater vigilance against corruption and better governing as he widens America’s commitment to the 8-year-old war he inherited.
Obama said the U.S. would not quit in Afghanistan, but he made clear that he’s looking for an end to direct involvement in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaida extremists.
He drove that point home in meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Cabinet, and in a speech before a cheering crowd of about 2,500 troops and civilians at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul.
“The United States is a partner but our intent is to make sure that the Afghans have the capacity to provide for their own security, that is core to our mission,” Obama told the troops at Bagram, where he was greeted with thunderous applause.
The U.S. also wants Karzai to cut the flow of money from poppy production and drug trafficking that is sustaining the insurgency.
Moreover, the U.S. is pressing him to create an effective, credible judicial system and to halt cronyism and rewards for warlords in government hiring.
Both of Karzai’s vice-presidents are former warlords whose forces allegedly killed thousands of people in the civil war of the 1990s that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban.