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Clinton arrives in Afghanistan on eve of Hamid Karzai's inauguration

The U.S. secretary of State presses for government reform as she arrives in the Afghan capital to dine with Karzai before his swearing-in Thursday. Clinton also meets with U.S. envoy Eikenberry.

November 18, 2009|By Laura King

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived today in Afghanistan, pressing U.S. calls for reform in President Hamid Karzai's government on the eve of his inauguration to another term.

Clinton, whose visit was not publicly disclosed for security reasons until after she landed in the Afghan capital, was dining with Karzai at the presidential palace, where Thursday's swearing-in is to take place.

Karzai is under intense Western pressure to stem corruption and graft in his government. Clinton has publicly suggested that his performance in this area would be linked to future American aid.

Senior ministers in Karzai's government promised this week to carry out a reform agenda, including the creation of a new anticorruption unit. But Western officials were largely withholding judgment about the initiative, as several similar ones have failed.

After landing, Clinton met at the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound with senior American officials including Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. Also present was the top military commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Eikenberry, in cables leaked last week in Washington, questioned McChrystal's reported call for up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to be sent to Afghanistan, in part because of qualms about Karzai's reliability as an ally.

The visit was Clinton's first as secretary of State, although she has traveled to Afghanistan three times previously.

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