US, allies give Karzai six months to reform and perform

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Washington, Nov.4 (ANI): The United States and its allies have reportedly given Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai six months to sideline his brother and reduce corruption or risk losing American support, Afghan officials have told The Times.

Senior palace insiders said that President Obama delivered the ultimatum when he congratulated Karzai on his re-election on Monday.

Top of his demands was action against corruption, the appointment of "reform-minded ministers" and several high-profile scalps to prove Karzai's commitment to cleaning up his Government.

"If he doesn't meet the conditions within six months, Obama has told him America will pull out," said an official with access to Karzai's inner circle.

"Obama said they don't want their soldiers' lives wasted for nothing. They want changes in Cabinet, and changes in his personal staff," he added.

The President's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has repeatedly denied claims that he controls Afghanistan's billion-dollar heroin trade.

As he head of Kandahar's provincial council, he is the main powerbroker in the south of the country, but the President has refused to remove him, insisting that there is no proof of wrongdoing.

In his acceptance speech yesterday, Karzai vowed to eradicate the "dark stain of corruption", which he admitted had undermined faith in his regime.

Afghan officials said that efforts are on to find Wali Karzai a new position.

The American Embassy is understood to have warned Karzai it will start collecting evidence against Wali Karzai if he is not removed from Kandahar.

An embassy official said Washington wanted proof that Karzai was taking the challenges "as seriously as we are".

Last week, Wali Karzai denied fresh allegations that he has been on the CIA payroll for much of the past eight years.

The claims, in The New York Times, prompted the Republican Senator John McCain to demand he be sent into exile.

The allegations have also exposed tensions between the State Department, which wants people like Wali Karzai removed, and the secret intelligence agencies that rely on morally dubious partners to get things done.

Wali Karzai, who campaigned for his brother in Kandahar, celebrated their victory yesterday with a feast for a thousand people at his home.

Obama is due to make a decision on whether to send up to 40,000 more troops in the coming weeks.

General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, requested reinforcements to mount a counter-insurgency strategy.

Others in the White House, including Joe Biden, the Vice-President, favour using foreign forces and relying on unmanned drones and Special Forces raids to target terrorist training camps. (ANI)

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