The West may have to bankroll Afghanistans security for 20 more years, President Karzai warned yesterday, as Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, promised not to abandon the war-ravaged country. Despite serious concerns over the credibility of Mr Karzais Government, particularly its ability to root out corruption, Mr Gates said on a visit to Kabul that Americas military withdrawal would be spread over several years. Aid money, he added, could last for decades. Diplomats have warned that future financial support depends on Afghan efforts to purge government corruption. We will fight by your side until the Afghan security forces are large enough and strong enough to secure the nation on their own, Mr Gates said, standing alongside Mr Karzai. Whether its three years or two years or four years remains to be seen. His remarks were seen as a clear endorsement of the countrys Minister of Defence, Abdul Rahim Wardak, and the Interior Minister, Hanif Atmar. Speaking to reporters en route to Afghanistan, Mr Gates described both men as very capable people. Mr Karzai is understood to have promised their jobs to other people many times over in exchange for tribal support in Augusts fraud-ridden presidential elections. The US, however, is anxious to have tested, capable ministers in key positions. Mr Karzai was to have announced his new Cabinet yesterday but that has now been delayed for a few more days. In an exclusive interview with The Times, Mr Atmar said he was confident that Mr Karzai would pick his Cabinet based on their ability to root out corruption. It is going to be his top priority over the next five years, Mr Atmar said. The Presidents appointments will be seen as a key test of his resolve. Diplomats hope that he will sideline former warlords and appoint reform-minded technocrats. The ministers of finance and agriculture have received strong international endorsements, while the minister of mines was accused in an American newspaper of accepting a $30 million bribe. Mr Atmar warned that it would be impossible to implement all the reforms over night. Afghanistans instruments of state have suffered from corruption for centuries, he said. There are rogue people who bring disgrace to the brave men and women in the police. Its my job to get rid of these rogue people and to bring them to justice. He said that 300 policemen, including six generals, had been either fired or prosecuted since he took control of the ministry a little over 12 months ago. A seventh police general from Kandahar is awaiting trial and two other senior officers are under investigation. Mr Atmar urged Afghanistans backers to be patient. Sometimes our international colleagues initially fail to understand that we are not in the UK or the United States, he said. Anyone with the slightest experience of reforming instruments of state, while those instruments are at war, will tell you that the challenge is daunting. The instruments cannot cease to function to reform, they have to continue to function. However, public efforts to curb corruption have had mixed success. Yesterday, after the Attorney-General claimed that Kabuls mayor had been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing almost $10,000, the mayors staff insisted he was still at work. (The Times)