Another Afghan vote masks US predicament
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s relief at the agreement that could quiet the political crisis over Afghanistan’sspoiled election masks his predicament as he weighs an expansion of the unpopular Afghanistan war.
The administration says its ambitious plans for Afghanistan rely on a “credible partner” in Kabul. But there is no guarantee that the hastily arranged voting will confer the legitimacy the fraudulent Aug. 20 election lacked.
No matter who wins the November election runoff that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai agreed to during pressured consultations with American leaders, the United States is wedded to a shaky government in which corruption has become second nature.“This has been a very difficult time in Afghanistan to not only carry out an election under difficult circumstances, where there were a whole host of security issues that had to be resolved, but also postelection a lot of uncertainty,” Obama said Tuesday.
Having pushed for a do-over, U.S. officials have even less ability to scold the winner. That winner is likely to be incumbent Karzai, who conceded Tuesday, under heavy international pressure, that a runoff was “legitimate, legal and according to the constitution of Afghanistan.”“You have to learn from mistakes, and everybody needs to do that here,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who stood with Karzai for an awkward announcement of the runoff plan. He said Afghan officials and international election shepherds must work fast to get standards and plans that all agree on.
Although Karzai was favored to win all along, Obama’s advisers thought they could forge a workable partnership that would be the building block for a new war strategy emphasizing the security and welfare of ordinary Afghans.
The strategy, which military officials quickly assumed would mean an infusion of thousands of additional U.S. troops and a larger expansion of Afghanistan’s own armed forces, frayed when the expensive, carefully monitored election went bad.Defense Secretary Robert Gates sounded pessimistic when asked about the runoff at a Tokyo news conference Wednesday.
“I think we need to be realistic that the issues of corruption and governance that we are trying to work with the Afghan government on are not going to be solved simply on the outcome of the presidential election,” he said.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama has not decided whether to move ahead with a revamped strategy, and the prospect of more troops, before results of the runoff are known. Gibbs told reporters he still expects that decision within weeks.
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