DENVER The U.S. and its allies are on the right track to shore up Afghan society, but they wont be able to build a 21st century democracy there, Sen. Mark Udall said Monday after a nine-day trip to the region.
The Colorado Democrat, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said corruption threatens to undermine the work that U.S. and NATO troops are doing. He cited reports that some U.S. aid money has wound up in the hands of insurgents.
In a conference call with reporters, Udall said he agrees with Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said if Afghan President Hamid Karzais government doesnt clean up corruption, it would be difficult to look American families in the eye and say, Hey thats something worth dying for.
Udall said he supports negotiations with the Taliban to include them in a settlement of the fighting, if the timing is right and some conditions are met. He didnt elaborate.
Udall said U.S. troops cant stay indefinitely. Karzai has said he wants Afghan troops to take the lead from U.S. and NATO troops by 2014.
Udall and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., visited Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. They met with Gen. David Petraeus, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.
While Udall was abroad, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he didnt think the U.S. could bring peace to the region, so I would bring our young men and women home.
Bennet is in a tight race against Republican Ken Buck.
Asked if he agreed with Bennet, Udall said the U.S. is in Afghanistan for the right reasons to deny al-Qaida a base, to rebuild a broken country and to stabilize the volatile border with Pakistan, a nuclear power with a fragile government.