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Afghan challenger not interested in joining Karzai

By John Amick

The challenger in Afghanistan's presidential race, Abdullah Abdullah, dismissed President Hamid Karzai's statements that the Afghan election in August was "mostly clean" and said that if Karzai wins a run-off election on Nov. 7, he has no interest in joining the government.

"I left Mr. Karzai's government some three and a half years ago, and since then I've not been tempted to be part of that government," Abdullah said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And my trust in becoming a candidate was to not be a part of the same government, part of the same deteriorating situation. Mine was for a change in the country. Mine was for bringing hopes for the people of this country.... So, (I have) absolutely no interest in such a scenario."

Both Abdullah and Karzai appeared on U.S. talk shows Sunday, less than two weeks before a run-off election that Karzai was pressured to agree to after a U.N.-backed election commission found widespread fraud in the Aug. 20 vote.

"The last election wasn't as bad as it was claimed," President Karzai said in a taped interview on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." "It was a lot better. This election we should try to have better... We have to...accept the Afghan elections in the context of the Afghan sitution and the poverty and lack of means in this country. Whatever happens, this election must present a clear result and the result must be respected. But of course, the international community and Afghans must do everything we can to make it better, to make it much more legitimate and to make it worthwhile for Afghanistan."

Abdullah said that he supports Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's strategy assessment that more troops are needed to stabilize Afghanistan. But he said that a broader plan must center on how healthy Afghanistan's government is, and how security will improve.

"The basic criteria has to be like, when we do need more troops at this stage? How is it that we can draw down those troops down the line? And then finally, Afghans [have to] take responsibility for their own security. Is that going to take place? What's the roadmap? What are the rules? And when one partner failing on its own mission, like what has been done in the past few years, I don't see a prospect for the strategy," Abdullah said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who supports McChrystal's assessment, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Obama will have trouble with his own party if he adds troops. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) disagreed, saying American opinion is broadly against an escalation of the war, no matter the party affiliation, and the president will have problems with a much larger section of the country and not just within Democratic circles.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) bemoaned critics of President Obama that say he's taking too long to make a troop-level decision.

"It's been eight years of mismanagement with President Karzai and eight years of loss of focus from the Americans as we put all of our efforts, the previous administration put all of its efforts into Iraq," he said on CNN. "Those questions remain to be answered. That's why the president needs time in making this decision."

On former Vice President Dick Cheney's comments that Obama is "dithering" in not deciding on further troops levels, McCain said he believed the more Congress is united with the president, the better it is for the efforts in Afghanistan. He would not condemn Cheney's statements.

"I think we should, as much as poosible ... say we want this strategy" then support the president after he makes a decision, McCain said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Obama should just listen to the "masters of counterinsurgency," McChrystal and CENTCOM commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, when making decisions in the war.

"They need these troops, there's no question about it," Hatch said on CNN. "And we're exposing our young men and women over there -- a number of them have been killed, I'm not blaming the president for that, but we're exposing them without the proper help that they've just got to have."

When asked about Cheney's comment, Hatch said he "would never want to call my president 'dithering.' "

On Meet the Press, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said a combat troop surge alone will not win the war. "We need a change in strategy" to the counter-insurgency package McChrystal has suggested in order to see some signs of success. But he said a decision to increase the level of combat troops on the ground is still imperative in order to improve security.

T. Rees Shapiro contributed to this report.

By editors  |  October 25, 2009; 11:59 AM ET
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