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Clinton Says U.S. Concerned About Afghan Corruption

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Philippines: "Corruption is corrosive in a society."
MANILA (Reuters) -- The United States is concerned about corruption and poor governance in Afghanistan and has raised those issues with the administration of President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.

But Clinton declined to say whether the issues were being weighed as part of U.S. President Barack Obama's review of his Afghan strategy..

And she would not confirm a "Washington Post" report that U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry had written memos to Obama expressing concern about sending more U.S. roops to the country until Karzai's government demonstrates it is willing to tackle corruption and mismanagement.

Karzai was recently elected to a second term in office in a fraud-tainted election.

"We are looking to President Karzai as he forms a new government to take action that will his own people that his second term will respond to the needs that are so manifest," Clinton told a news conference in Manila.

"I think the corruption issue really goes to the heart of whether the people of Afghanistan feel that the government is on their side, is working for them."

Obama is weighing final options for a new strategy for the Afghanistan war, including whether to send additional U.S. troops to stem a resurgence by the Taliban eight years after the start of the war.

The U.S. leader's top military commander in Afghanistan has recommended increasing the number of U.S. forces in the country. A proposal to add an additional 30,000 troops has gained favor among top advisers, officials said.

Clinton said she shared concerns that had been raised by a number of leaders about Afghanistan, including corruption, lack of transparancy, poor governance, and an absence of the rule of law.

"Corruption is corrosive in a society," she said. "When leaders enrich themselves at the expense of their people, when they put their own fortune ahead of the fortune of their people it has a very unfortunate impact."

"We are concerned and we've expressed those concerns and we are looking for measures of accountability and transparency that will demonstrate a clear commitment to the kind of governance and outcomes that the people of Afghanistan deserve," Clinton said.

She declined to say whether Obama was considering corruption specifically as a factor in formulating a new Afghan strategy. But leaving the review process aside, the administration deals with the problem frequently, she said.

"Of course we're looking at it," she said. "We're looking at it every day at the State Department. If we're going to be providing development assistance, we want to be sure it goes to where it's intended."