Karzai sworn in as Afghan leader

Veteran Afghan leader Hamid Karzai was sworn in as president today, pledging to fight graft and take control of his country's security before his five-year term ends, after a fraud-marred election left his image in ruins.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari were among dignitaries attending the ceremony in an ornate hall in Karzai's sprawling Kabul palace.



Outside, the capital was all but a ghost town, with police shutting down all streets and ordering citizens to stay home.



Karzai, 51, called for reconciliation with enemies and proposed a "loya jirga", a traditional grand assembly, which under Afghanistan's constitution can take precedence over all government institutions, including the presidency itself.



"We welcome those who are not affiliated with any terrorist organisations and whose hands are not red with Afghans' blood," he said. He described corruption as a menace to the state, and promised measures to fight it.



His inauguration for his second five-year term comes against the backdrop of an ever more-deadly Taliban insurgency, doubts over his legitimacy after the tainted election, and demands from Western donors he address rampant corruption and mismanagement.



In an apparent nod to the demands of his Western backers, Karzai pledged to appoint "competent and professional" ministers.



The speech received positive reviews from the West.



British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it showed Karzai understood the demands being made on him.



"When you've been re-elected, it's delivery time and I think that's what came through in President Karzai's speech," Miliband said. "It's a very challenging country to govern but you've got a very strong, substantial statement today."



European Union special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Ettore Sequi called the speech "a very good statement which reflected the right priorities the right way".



"Let's encourage and support the president and we shall have opportunities to see how that programme will be translated into reality," he told Reuters. The first test would be Karzai's choice of cabinet ministers, expected soon, he said.



Not all were so impressed. In his speech, Karzai offered a job to his election foe Abdullah Abdullah, calling him his "brother". Abdullah told Reuters he had no plans to accept.



"It's more of the same," Abdullah said. "He has spoken in these terms - in terms of bringing changes and reform, and fighting corruption, and bringing security and reconciliation - for the last eight years, and the situation has worsened."







Karzai said he hoped Afghanistan's own security forces can take responsibility for the entire country within five years, and take the lead in unstable areas within three.



It is a goal he will share with his Western backers, who are desperately seeking an exit strategy from the 8-year-old war. US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he hopes to bring the war to an end before leaving office.



There are now nearly 110,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans - more than half of whom arrived since Obama took office. Obama is now deciding whether to fulfill his commander's request for tens of thousands more.



Western officials have said they hoped to hear concrete steps in Karzai's speech that would restore his tattered reputation.



Karzai's government announced this week that it was setting up a new anti-corruption unit, but Clinton, whose visit was her first as secretary of state, said more effort was needed.



"They've done some work on that, but in our view, not nearly enough to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose to tackle corruption," she told reporters en route to Kabul on Wednesday.



A UN-backed probe found that nearly a third of votes for Karzai in the Aug. 20 election were fake. While Karzai had been expected to win anyway, the extent of the fraud in his favour severely damaged his credibility at home and among Western nations with troops fighting to support his government.



He has since faced tough pressure from Western leaders to clamp down on widespread corruption and replace former guerrilla leaders and cronies with able technocrats in his new government.



For many Kabulis, the inauguration just brought still more disruption after months of electoral uncertainty.



"What's happened in the last five years? It will just be the same again," said Mohammed Shah, referring to Karzai's last term, as he tried to make his way past roadblocks. "They should all go to hell. With these roadblocks, we can't even walk home."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions