Breaking: White House Says 'Era of Blank Check' Is Over for Afghan President Karzai
President will give a speech to the nation Tuesday announcing additional troops.
Nov. 30, 2009— -- 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 that Afghanistan's president will not welcome: Instead of U.S. 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.
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.
The president was described as heartened to hear that Karzai spent much of his inaugural address discussing corruption.
In his inaugural address, Karzai said his government "is committed to end the culture of impunity and violation of law and bring to justice those involved in spreading corruption and abuse of public property. To do this, will require effective and strong measures. Therefore, alongside an intensified judicial reform, all government anti-corruption efforts and agencies have to be strengthened and supported."
On Monday November 16, Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar announced his government – working with the FBI, Scotland Yard and the European Union's police training mission to Afghanistan – was forming a unit to combat government corruption. "A giant step is being taken today in announcing the opening of the major crime task force," Atmar said.
But, the president's aides say, he is far from satisfied.
In his March 27 speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama said, "we will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior, and sets clear benchmarks, clear metrics for international assistance so that it is used to provide for the needs of the Afghan people."
Those benchmarks have remained largely classified. Sources say the new strategy will include many of the same benchmarks, but with ramifications to US support to Karzai and his government if they are not met.
Last night in the Oval Office the President met with his team and told them his decision -- around 30,000 new U.S. troops and a strategy based more on fighting terrorism than nation-building -- a threat the president will outline in more detail tomorrow night.
The president first told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton his decision by phone Sunday afternoon, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Obama then met at 5 p.m. with his war council, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones.
At 6 p.m., he spoke via secure video teleconference with U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who asked for at least 40,000 more troops, and ambassador to Afghanistan 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.