Sen. John Kerry cautioned President Obama Saturday against raising troop levels in Afghanistan, saying it would be “entirely irresponsible” to do so while the Afghan government remains in turmoil following national elections.
“It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working in, with,” Kerry told CNN’s John King in an interview set to air Sunday at 9 a.m. on State of The Union. [continued…]
There is a growing fear among Western officials in Afghanistan that President Hamid Karzai and the nation’s Independent Election Commission will not accept the findings of a United Nations-backed fraud investigation that is expected to call for a runoff to settle Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election.
Such a decision by Karzai would deepen Afghanistan’s political crisis and leave no clear method for resolving the allegations of massive fraud that have undermined the credibility of the election, which was held nearly two months ago. It would also be a setback for the Obama administration, which has urged the candidates to follow the electoral process to yield a legitimate winner.
“That’s the brick wall,” said one Western official in Kabul familiar with the process. “It’s going to be quite chaotic and confusing.” [continued…]
There were also reports that foreign envoys were pressing both sides to work out a power-sharing deal. A senior American official noted that Mr. Karzai and Mr. Abdullah together won more than 70 percent of the votes cast in the first round, enough to give a unity government credibility.
But the Obama administration is adamant that it is not pushing for a deal.
“We’re not trying to prevent a second round,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “The issue is not about a runoff. The issue is getting a legitimate president.”
It was unclear how seriously either candidate was taking the idea of a unity government. Neither candidate has completely ruled it out, but each insists that the current process play out first.
Meanwhile, preparations for a second round of voting are well under way. Ballots for a second round were printed in London and shipped to Kabul, the American official said. [continued…]