Image: Hillary Rodham Clinton
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a raft of aid projects for Pakistan on Monday aimed at tackling anti-American sentiment. She later flew to Kabul, Afghanistan, for a key conference on the country's future.
msnbc.com news services
updated 7/19/2010 12:31:26 PM ET 2010-07-19T16:31:26

The Obama administration is pressing for better efforts to combat corruption in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday as she flew into the country for an international conference on the war, reconstruction and development.

Clinton landed in Kabul on Monday after two days of talks in neighboring Pakistan where she pushed officials to work more closely with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the fight against extremists.

Afghan officials are expected to present their plans to improve security and implement reforms at Tuesday's conference.

Before landing, Clinton told reporters the Kabul conference "is going to show more Afghan ownership and leadership, which is something we've been pushing."

'We have to do a better job'
Clinton said that she is concerned about reports of the diversion of U.S. aid, but said the problem isn't just with the Afghan government.

"We also have to take our hard look at ourselves because it is very clear our presence, all of our contracting has fed that problem," she said. "This is not just an Afghan problem, it's an international issue. We have to do a better job of trying to more carefully channel and monitor our own aid."

She said the U.S. is "pressing the Afghan government at all levels to be more accountable, to go after corruption," but that the U.S. also had a responsibility to improve management of its programs.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he wanted the international conference to agree on handing over the responsibility for the country's security to the local authorities by 2014.

He said the gathering's broader "aim is to come up with a perspective for a withdrawal."

Westerwelle also defended the reconciliation approach toward moderate Taliban. "We won't be successful without a political solution that reflects the interests of all political groups," he said.

Germany has some 4,500 troops in the NATO-led ISAF security force in Afghanistan, making it the third-largest troop contributor behind the U.S. and Britain.

The conference will be attended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and delegations from more than 60 nations plus a host of other diplomats and representatives from international organizations.

Mistrust
Earlier, Clinton sought to convince skeptical Pakistanis that American interest in their country extends beyond the fight against Islamist militants by announcing a raft of new aid projects worth $500 million.

The projects, which included new dams for badly needed electricity and hospitals, are part of a $7.5 billion aid effort to win over Pakistanis suspicious about Washington's goals here and in neighboring Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are being killed in ever greater numbers in an insurgency with links to Pakistan.

Mistrust over U.S. intentions in Pakistan is in part due to Washington's decision to turn away from the nuclear-armed country after enlisting its support to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"Of course there is a legacy of suspicion that we inherited. It is not going to be eliminated overnight," said Clinton following talks in Islamabad.

"It is however our goal to slowly but surely demonstrate that the United States is concerned about Pakistan for the long term and that our partnership goes far beyond security against our common enemies," she said. "We have moved beyond a standoff of our misunderstandings that were allowed to fester and not addressed ... to a position where we're engaged in the most open dialogue that I think our two countries have ever had."

Clinton said the U.S. will complete two hydroelectric dam projects to supply electricity to more than 300,000 people in areas near the Afghan border, will renovate or build three medical facilities in central and southern Pakistan and will embark on a new initiative to improve access to clean drinking water in the country.

Strategic partnership
These projects and several others focused on promoting economic growth will cost some $500 million and will be funded by legislation approved by Congress to triple nonmilitary aid to $1.5 billion a year over five years. The initiatives mark the second phase of projects begun under a new and enhanced strategic partnership.

Despite these initiatives, Clinton faces challenges in appealing for greater Pakistani cooperation in cracking down on militants who use their sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch cross-border attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target Afghan Taliban militants in the country with whom it has historical ties because they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after international forces withdraw.

Pakistan has shown more interest in supporting Afghanistan's push to reconcile with Afghan Taliban rather than fight them, a tactic that the U.S. believes has little chance of succeeding until the militants' momentum on the battlefield is reversed.

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their often frosty relations and prodded the two countries to seal a landmark trade deal Sunday that was reached after years of negotiation. The pact, which eases restrictions on cross-border transportation, must be ratified by the Afghan parliament and Pakistani Cabinet.

U.S. officials said they believe it will significantly enhance ties between the two countries, boost development and incomes on both sides of the border and contribute to the fight against extremists.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Clinton juggles war, diplomacy, wedding

  1. Transcript of: Clinton juggles war, diplomacy, wedding

    ANN CURRY, co-host: There is news from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton , who is in Pakistan this morning trying to shore up support for US efforts in the region. We've got NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell , traveling with her.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good morning, Ann. Hillary Clinton is here trying to push the Pakistanis to go after insurgents who are killing US troops in Afghanistan , but that means overcoming years of distrust between the US and Pakistan . Today she came bearing economic aid, water and electricity projects desperately needed here. Still, public opinion toward the US remains negative, even hostile.

    Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON: So we know that there is some questioning, even suspicion, about what the United States is doing today, and I can only respond by saying that, very clearly, we have a commitment that is much broader and deeper than it has ever been.

    MITCHELL: One achievement: She witnessed the signing of a long-delayed trade and transit agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan , decades in the making. But she acknowledged frustration with Pakistan 's efforts against al-Qaeda , again saying that elements in Pakistan 's government know where Osama bin Laden is and could get him if they wanted to in an interview with NBC News . Do you still believe that?

    Sec. CLINTON: I do. I do. I think that there's a bit of a debate going on within certain elements of the Pakistani government . Our argument is very

    simple: `Look, you've got to take on every nongovernmental armed force inside your country because even though you think they won't bother you today, there's no guarantee. It's like keeping a poisonous snake in your backyard.'

    MITCHELL: And in a decades-old terror case, Pan Am 103 , Clinton said the British government has now told her there is no evidence BP influenced the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber , Abdel Basset al-Megrahi . Does that end the case as far as you're concerned?

    Sec. CLINTON: Well, I don't think it will end it in terms of the inquiries that Congress and the administration have made. It may be that there's nothing to be done about it, which is deeply frustrating.

    MITCHELL: Still, while she juggles war diplomacy and terror, a world away is the happiest event of the family life . In less than two weeks, Chelsea 's wedding. You handle a lot of state secrets and classified information. There is no more closely guarded secret than -- well, the locale has leaked out, but the guest list, the arrangements. What has gone into keeping this so private?

    Sec. CLINTON: My lips are sealed, Andrea . I am -- I am under very strict orders not to talk about it, and I think for the right reason, because...

    MITCHELL: This is Chelsea 's wedding.

    Sec. CLINTON: The -- it is hers, and it's a family wedding. And the people coming are her friends and people that have been meaningful in her life, as it should be.

    MITCHELL: But before she can get back to being the mother of the bride, Clinton has to go on to Afghanistan and then South Korea , all in a day 's work for a very busy secretary of state . Ann :

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