White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN that President Obama wouldn't make a decision on his military commanders' request for as many as 80,000 additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the administration is convinced the country has a credible central government.
As two commissions reviewing allegations of fraud in Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 presidential election haggled Sunday in Kabul, a top Obama administration official and a senior Senate Democrat publicly turned up the heat on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to find a credible end to the electoral dispute.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN that President Obama wouldn’t make a decision on his military commanders’ request for as many as 80,000 additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the administration is convinced the country has a credible central government.
“It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country,” Emanuel said.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who’s visiting Afghanistan, told CNN, “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.”
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Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, has been skeptical of the request from Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, for more troops to support a strategy to combat the Taliban-led insurgency by safeguarding the population, strengthening the Afghan government, improving public services and enlarging the Afghan security forces.
In Kabul, meanwhile, the United Nations-sponsored Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and the Afghan Independent Election Commission, which is dominated by Karzai supporters, haggled for most of Sunday over the methodology the ECC used to investigate allegations of ballot-box stuffing and other fraud in the election.
Two administration officials, both speaking on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly, told McClatchy on Sunday the U.N. commission has concluded that more than 75 percent of the 1.5 million questionable ballots it’s reviewed were fraudulent votes for Karzai.
The officials said the ECC has concluded a complete recount would find more than enough fraudulent Karzai votes to drop his preliminary tally of 54.6 percent below the 50 percent mark, thus requiring a runoff election with second-place finisher Abdullah Abdullah.
As McClatchy reported Sunday, Abdullah told U.S. officials last week that under certain conditions he would agree to forgo a runoff by withdrawing and endorsing a Karzai-led unity government that included some of his allies.
Such a deal, however, would require Karzai to agree to make reforms and accept that he failed to win more than half the vote.
So far, despite pressure from the U.S., its allies and the U.N., Karzai hasn’t agreed to such a deal or to a runoff election, despite the fact he would be favored to win a two-way election against Abdullah.
Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan; Walcott reported from Washington.