Clinton makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital early Saturday, on the eve of a major donors’ conference in Tokyo at which Afghanistan hopes to secure pledges for about $4 billion in annual aid after the NATO force departs.
Clinton’s visit also followed the reopening of NATO supply lines through Pakistan that were closed for about seven months as Washington and Islamabad tussled over whether the United States should apologize for the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers in a NATO airstrike aimed at Taliban militants.
The American secretary of State personally interceded to end the deadlock with Pakistan, telling her Pakistani counterpart that the U.S. was “sorry” for the Pakistani deaths. By week’s end, NATO supply trucks were once again crossing the frontier.
Many donors attending the Tokyo conference are wary of big-ticket pledges to Afghanistan because of corruption that has plagued the disbursement of funds intended for humanitarian and development aid. At the gathering, Afghanistan's government is expected to promise greater transparency in how, where and why aid funds are distributed.
International organizations also have warned that the Afghan economy could go into a tailspin after a decade in which the great majority of its funding has come from foreign sources. At the Tokyo conference, Afghan civil society groups are asking that pledges to prop up the central government carry conditions that there are no rollbacks on issues like women’s rights after foreign forces leave.
Karzai was to meet with Clinton on Saturday before departing for the Tokyo conference.
-- Laura King