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U.S. House Speaker Says Afghan Leader 'Unworthy Partner'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "How can we ask the American people to pay a big price in lives and limbs, and also in dollars, if we don't have a connection to a reliable partner?"
(RFE/RL) -- The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has called Afghan President Hamid Karzai an "unworthy partner" and warned that Congress cannot fund an expanded military mission or civilian investment to Afghanistan without a "reliable" ally in Kabul.

Speaking to U.S. National Public Radio on November 20, Nancy Pelosi also warned that there was not strong political support among Democrats in the U.S. Congress for sending more troops to Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama is considering.

"How can we ask the American people to pay a big price in lives and limbs, and also in dollars, if we don't have a connection to a reliable partner?" Pelosi said in her interview.

Pelosi's comments come as Obama is weighing sending up to 40,000 additional U.S. troops to quell Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration said a decision on whether to deploy additional forces to the country would not be made until after Thanksgiving on November 26.

No Big Increase

There are currently about 68,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have said up to 40,000 more troops are needed to combat the growing Taliban-led insurgency.

However, there is an increasing discomfort among Obama's fellow Democrats over calls for any major increase in the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Pelosi warned that Democrats in Congress do not strongly support "any big ramp-up of troops" or civilian aid.

Pelosi said that without a credible ally in Kabul "whatever civilian investments we want to make -- which are so necessary -- will be diverted for a corrupt purpose."

Pelosi made her comments the day after Karzai was sworn in for a second five-year term in office.

Karzai has been under intense pressure from the international community to fight widespread corruption in his country.

During his inauguration speech, he promised to clamp down on corruption, but Western leaders want tangible action.

Success 'Attainable'

Nasrullah Stanakzai, a Kabul-based political analyst, tells RFE/RL that Karzai won't regain the international community's trust until he takes "concrete, tough measures."

"As a part of the fight against corruption, Afghan government agencies should be cleaned up from three types of people," Stanakzai says," warlords and those linked to war crimes, anyone who is involved in drug trafficking, and anyone who has even been involved in corruption and bribery."

Karzai has said he wants Afghan forces to take the lead from the NATO-led troops in securing Afghanistan in five years' time.

With Western military assistance and training of Afghan troops, Stanakzai believes Karzai's goal is "attainable."

"If Afghan troops are properly equipped and upgraded, and if the army is expanded by some half a million personnel, I think it is possible that Afghan forces could have the strength to protect the country," Stanakzai says.

"Past experience indicates that the Afghan Army is capable of defending the country."

There are over 110,000 NATO-led troops currently stationed in Afghanistan.

There is increasing debate among Western allies over whether to continue their military presence in the war-torn country. The Netherlands and Canada have already decided to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

with news agency reports