Emanuel says U.S. must gauge viability of government in Kabul

By Joshua Partlow and John Amick
Monday, October 19, 2009

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday that before a decision is made on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the United States must assess the strength and viability of the Afghan 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 on CNN's "State of the Union."

Afghanistan's recent presidential election has been tainted by allegations of fraud, and the results of an investigation have been stalled.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said President Obama should not commit more troops to the region until the election is legitimately settled.

"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," Kerry said from Kabul in a taped interview for CNN.

A dispute between two election commissions has delayed the release of investigation results regarding the alleged fraud and has raised the prospect that President Hamid Karzai might reject a call for a runoff.

In Kabul, U.N.-backed election officials spent the day poring over evidence of fraud in the Aug. 20 vote and explaining the methodology of their conclusions in an attempt to avert further political chaos. The meetings were intended to alleviate the concerns of the Afghan-run Independent Election Commission (IEC), which has raised questions about how the U.N.-led Electoral Complaints Commission arrived at its findings, which pushed Karzai below the 50 percent needed to win.

Foreign leaders have pressured Karzai to accept the U.N. commission's results and not derail the election process. He has refused to commit to accepting the results before they are released.

"For the moment we are worried," France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, told reporters Sunday. "They must accept the results."

Some officials expressed cautious optimism that a further crisis might be averted. "Progress is actually being made on answering some of the IEC questions," said one international official in Kabul.

The Independent Election Commission has said it would need at least 24 hours to process its decision, pushing any announcement of the results to Monday at the earliest, officials said.

"I think with the pressure that you've seen being applied to Karzai, the wind does seem to be blowing in the right direction," the international official said.

Partlow reported from Kabul.

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