Afghan president sworn in to second 5-year term
KABUL (AP) -- Afghanistan will control its own security within five years and prosecute corrupt officials, President Hamid Karzai pledged today in an inauguration speech made under intense pressure to shed the cronyism and graft that marked his government's first term.
As Karzai vowed to make the country safer, an explosion in violent southern Afghanistan killed two U.S. service members, NATO said. Jilani Farahe, deputy chief of police for Zabul province said the blast was caused by a suicide car bomber detonating his explosives near the gate of a NATO base. He said no civilians had been hurt.
During his speech, Karzai also said he wanted private Afghan and foreign security companies to stop operating in the country within two years.
"We are determined that by the next five years, the Afghan forces are capable of taking the lead in ensuring security and stability across the country," with foreign troops only responsible for support and training, he said.
Karzai said nobody was above the law and promised to go after corrupt officials.
His government, he said, "is committed to end the culture of impunity and violation of law and bring to justice those involved in spreading corruption and abuse of public property."
Karzai won this year's fraud-marred presidential election after his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, pulled out of a runoff, saying it was impossible for the vote to be fair.
But Karzai sought to portray himself as a unifying force and invited those who ran in the election to work together for the benefit of the country.
"I would like to invite all the presidential candidates, including my brother Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, to come together to achieve the important task of national unity, and make our common home, Afghanistan, proud and prosperous," he said. He stopped short, however, of inviting him into his government.
But Abdullah, who served as Karzai's foreign minister for several years, said it was Karzai's administration that had created the problems.
"His record and policies I consider as the basic and fundamental reason for the failures of the international community and Afghanistan together," Abdullah told the AP. "So for me it's those agendas for change which are important rather than my having posts in the cabinet, that has never been my agenda."
Karzai said a loya jirga, or traditional council of elders, would be called to address the insurgency, but did not set a timeframe.
"We will utilize all national and international resources to put an end to war and fratricide," he said.