White House: Boycott does not 'complicate' Afghanistan strategy

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's decision to boycott his state's runoff election does not complicate the president's plans for Afghanistan, White House aide Valerie Jarrett said Sunday.

Rather, Abdullah's withdrawal from the November contest because of concerns about its fairness is a mostly "political" move that "does not markedly change the situation," explained White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod.

"We don't think that it's going to add a complication to the strategy. It's up to the Afghan people and their authorities to decide how to proceed going forward," Jarret told ABC's "This Week."

"We watched the election very carefully. And we're going to work with the leader of the Afghan government and hopefully that's going to improve the state of conditions for the people in Afghanistan, and also help us as we try to bring this war to a close," she added.

ADVERTISEMENT
This weekend's news that President Hamid Karzai's only remaining challenger would not participate in a scheduled runoff race spells trouble for Afghanistan, which was forced to schedule the election because of widespread election fraud that tainted the results of the state's first vote.

According to Abdullah, Karzai's decision not to fire allegedly biased, ill-motivated election officials would have only undermined the legitimacy of Afghanistan's scheduled runoff -- a unfair contest, he said this weekend, that he was forced to boycott.

But this weekend's events could also prove politically corrosive for the Obama administration, which insisted earlier this month that it could not commit additional troops and resources to Afghanistan unless Kabul demonstrated it could be a "credible partner" in the rebuilding effort.

Axelrod, however, dismissed on Sunday the suggestion that Abdullah's withdrawal from the race undermines the legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai and his government.

"[Abdullah] is establishing himself as a leader of the opposition," Axelrod told CBS' "Face the Nation." "But every poll that had been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway. So we are going to deal with the government that is there."

"And obviously there are issues we need to discuss, such as reducing the high level of corruption," he added. "These are issues we'll take up with President Karzai."