May 1 - A top EU envoy suggests more support for Afghanistan will depend on President Hamid Karzai's success in establishing credible government and tackling corruption. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Vygaudas Usackas, the top European Union diplomat in Afghanistan, says the death of Osama bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan raised hopes in Kabul and elsewhere that a devastating blow had been dealt to Islamist militancy. One year on, optimism has faded, he says. The Afghan Taliban, whom Washington accused of sheltering bin Laden before U.S. troops helped Afghan forces remove the group from power, have suspended reconciliation talks with the United States. And discussions with the Afghan government are limited. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN UNION SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE AND AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN, VYGAUDAS USACKAS SAYING: "Well I remember vividly a year ago when I was here I got a call from one of the colleagues asking, 'Have you seen the news?' Immediately I have got, I mean, dozens, if not hundreds of emails from different ordinary Afghans in a very celebratory mood, expressing their satisfaction that that may provide a game-changer in terms of the future reconciliation." (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN UNION SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE AND AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN, VYGAUDAS USACKAS SAYING: "Unfortunately, as we all know, I mean the peace process is not as easy as one may expect, one may have expected a year ago after bin Laden's death. And we look to the history of other reconciliation process between Europe or other parts of the world, that will require long-term commitment from both sides," Usackas added. Two years into his posting, lack of commitment in Afghanistan seems to be the most troubling issue for Usackas. Western nations have poured billions of dollars into aid and reconstruction yet, he says, President Hamid Karzai's administration has not kept up its end of the bargain -- to improve governance and transparency. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN UNION SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE AND AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN, VYGAUDAS USACKAS SAYING: "President Karzai personally, and the political establishment of Afghanistan, are fully aware that the future development aid for country will certainly be influenced about greater and genuine steps to improve governance, dealing with corruption and moving towards elections which will be credible for Afghan people," he said. Taxpayers squeezed by hard economic times may ask tougher questions if there are no tangible signs of improvement, said Usackas, a former Lithuanian diplomat. While the European Union has no intention of abandoning Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014, some countries will have to justify further heavy spending.