Afghanistan President Pledges to Take Control of Security by 2014

"The Afghan government is stepping forward to deal with the multitude of difficult challenges. And I have to say, some of their challenges have been made more difficult by the international community's intervention," Clinton said, departing from her prepared text to deliver the second sentence.

But Afghan officials admit that their own corruption has also contributed to development aid missing its target. Billions of dollars leave Kabul every year, and some investigators here believe it has been skimmed from development projects.

In return for increased control over foreign aid, Karzai promised to beef up his government's anti-corruption efforts, including prosecution of crooked officials and higher penalties for any government minister who fails to disclose his or her assets.

Afghanistan Citizens Skeptical

Karzai has made those promises in the past. And indeed, many Afghans and NGOs expressed doubt that the conference would produce any more results than the previous eight conferences held about the war.

Amim, who goes by only one name, has lived in the center of Kabul since the fall of the Taliban. His house is still made of mud. His children still do not have any medicine. He still lives in the shadow of building projects. He makes $4 a day -- when he is hired as a day laborer – usually to clean out richer people's sewers.

Like so many Afghans, he says his life simply hasn't improved since the United States invaded Afghanistan and promised to uplift its 30 million citizens.

"All this help and money are coming. Where does it go? Who they are giving this money to?" he asks as he bends down in one of the two rooms in his home, the roof too low to stand up straight. He and his children sleep on thin mattresses that rest on a dirt floor.

"We hear the news all the time from the radio that millions of dollars have come to Afghanistan," he continues. "But I haven't seen any sign of it."

Today's conference was held under extraordinary security. For much of Monday and all day Tuesday, every street in central Kabul was closed to traffic. That's like closing down Times Square, and every street leading into it.

Insurgents did manage some minor incidents. But the largest attack was foiled.

Afghan intelligence agents raided a house in eastern Kabul, interfering with an insurgent plan to fire more than a dozen mortars at the conference, according to intelligence agents who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The agents, along with police officers, searched the home near Kabul's sports stadium and found one member of an insurgent cell. They forced him to use his phone to call other members of the cell and tell them to come to the house. When all six of them arrived, each was arrested, according to the intelligence agents.

The mortar's targeting system, which used GPS, was fixed on the foreign ministry, the agents said. The cell planned to begin firing the mortars after the conference began, and when local police responded to the scene, six gunmen wearing suicide vests planned to create a defensive ring, hoping to allow the mortars to continue firing.

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