Obama’s Message in Afghanistan Speech: “The Era of the Blank Check for President Karzai is Over”

Nov 30, 2009 6:34pm

While tomorrow night's speech will have many audiences — the American people, international allies, the Afghan government, a senior administration official tells ABC News one key message will resonate with all of them: "The era of the blank check for President Karzai is over."

Senior administration officials tell ABC News that as part of President Obama's speech and his new policy will come some news President Karzai will not welcome.

Instead of US resources going to Karzai's national government, much of it will be targeted at local governments at the province and district level and at specific ministries, such as those devoted to Afghan security.

"Investments will be based on performance," a senior administration official told ABC News. And if Karzai continues to run a government that is full of corruption and fails to provide basic services, he may find himself out of the loop entirely.

“It's time for a new chapter in our relationship as it relates to corruption and improved governance,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today.

After the fraud riddled election in October, President Obama took a stern tone with Karzai both privately and publicly, arguing that the investment the American people have made in his country — both in terms of billions spent and thousands of troops killed and wounded — was not open-ended.

Mr. Obama was heartened to hear that Karzai spent much of his inaugural address discussing corruption and set up an anti-corruption task force 10 days ago. But the president is far from satisfied, aides say.

Last night in the Oval Office the President met with his team and told them his decision: around 30,000 new US troops and a strategy based more on fighting terrorism than nation-building, a threat the president will outline in more detail tomorrow night.

Mr. Obama then went to the Situation Room where he gave the news via teleconference to the top military man and the top diplomat in Afghanistan — General Stanley McChrystal, who asked for at least 40,000 more troops, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry who warned the president in classified cables of his concerns about sending more troops with Karzai in power.

“Both of those individuals felt very good about our way forward,” Gibbs said at his briefing today.

President Obama much of today consulting key US allies, including the heads of Denmark, France, Russia and the UK. He also met at the White House with the prime minister of Australia, who sent more troops to Afghanistan earlier this year.

“Australia takes its alliance with the united states very seriously,” Rudd said. “That's why we have been with America for a long time in Afghanistan and why we will be with America for the long haul.”

-jpt

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