Pledging to fight corruption and take control of Afghanistan’s security apparatus – Hamid Karzai has been sworn-in as president for a second five-year term.
His inauguration comes against the backdrop of a growing Taliban insurgency and doubts about his legitimacy as leader after widespread fraud tainted the August election. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among the dignitaries attending the ceremony in Karzai’s Kabul palace while outside police sealed off entire streets and residents were told to stay in their homes. Karzai wants to convene a “loya jirga” or grand assembly, but opposition figures remain unconvinced of Karzai’s ability to tackle the issues that matter: Abdulla, Abdullah who withdrew from a planned presidential run-off vote, said: “Corruption is so entrenched that it would be a challenge for any government, but for this government, which has been the administration for the past few years – to deal with it is a big question.” The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, has stressed the importance of paving the way for a gradual withdrawal of coalition troops. But he knows that strengthening and expanding the Afghan army and police force to a necessary level of competence is a tall order.