Obama calls Afghan elections an 'important step'

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE hailed the Afghanistan elections as an "important step forward," and he applauded the "courage" of Afghans who went to the polls despite violence.

Obama noted that the U.S. did not support any candidate and that a record number of women had turned out to vote. Preliminary election results were expected Saturday, with President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah claiming victory Friday. Full results are expected next week.

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The president also said that Afghans were in the process of taking their country back even as the Taliban increases instances of violence.

"We knew that the Taliban would try to derail this election," Obama said.

The president spoke to reporters briefly Friday before boarding Marine One en route to a 10-day vacation beginning at Camp David.

As he departed, Obama was asked about the "hero's welcome" that Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, the convicted bomber of Pan Am 103, received as he returned to Libya on Thursday after being set free from a Scottish prison, where he was serving a life sentence for the 1988 bombing that killed 270 people.

"I thought it was highly objectionable," the president said.