LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai needed to do more to fight corruption and strengthen local governance to reduce the influence of drug barons.
Brown said he had spoken to Karzai after he was confirmed as president following the cancellation of a run-off ballot.
“Afghanistan now needs new and urgent measures for tackling corruption, strengthening local government and reaching out to all parts of Afghan society, and to give the Afghan people a real stake in their future,” Brown told parliament.
“President Karzai agreed with me Afghanistan now needs to strengthen its army and police numbers so over time we can reduce our troops,” he said.
Britain has around 9,000 troops in Afghanistan and has said it is prepared to send another 500 providing Kabul agreed to provide additional Afghan troops to be trained and fight alongside British forces.
The government has come under pressure over a rising death toll among British troops fighting as part of the international force in Afghanistan. It has been criticised for failing to equip its troops properly, with a shortage of helicopters blamed for putting forces at risk.
Brown urged Karzai to press on with what he called a “unity programme for the future of Afghanistan”.
Political divisions have been heightened by the withdrawal from a presidential run-off by former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah who cast doubts on the fairness of the process.
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall