Afghan candidate says 'dramatic' surge needed, backs McChrystal assessment

Afghanistan's opposition candidate backed Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations for more troops Sunday, saying "the future of the country is at risk" without a "dramatic increase" in troop levels.

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who faces off against President Hamid Karzai in a Nov. 7 runoff, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he's also leaving open the possibility of an election boycott if recommendations aren't met to ensure transparency and stem fraud in the second round of voting.

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"We might have to go through the same sort of saga" if collaboration between the Karzai government and electoral bodies isn't kept in check, Abdullah said. "I'm under a lot of pressure" from some supporters to boycott, he acknowledged.

Abdullah stressed to Fox host Chris Wallace, however, that a boycott is not currently in the works. "I don't want to give a message to our people so that momentum to campaign is lost," he said. Still, "it will be a very serious situation if we are up against same conditions that we went through in the first round," he added.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Abdullah said that the “failures” of the current Afghan government have prevented progress in the country. Afghanistan has missed the “golden opportunity” because of “loss of focus” by a “highly centralized incompetent system that cannot deliver to the people.”

Abdullah also ruled out a power-sharing coalition government with Karzai. "I think I should rule it out becuase I'm ready to go for a runoff," he said on Fox. "I'm focusing at this stage to provide the relevant institutions... to ensure the transparency of the Afghanistan elections."

Karzai said on CNN Sunday that a runoff election has to be held.

“We must have a second round; if we do not do that we will be insulting democracy,” Karzai said.

On "Fox News Sunday," Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the U.S. should place pressure on the electoral process without interfering, and opined that it would be a "mistake" for Abdullah to take the boycott route.

In both of his Sunday appearances, Abdullah was clear on his opinion that more U.S.-led NATO forces are needed on the ground in his country.

"There is a need for more troops," Abdullah said when asked about President Barack Obama's policy review on Fox. "There is no doubt about it.

"At the same time, when is the best time? Even if the decision is made today it doesn't mean tomorrow we will have troops on the ground."

Karzai said on CNN that any arrival of more U.S. forces to Afghanistan must enhance the protection of the Afghan people and the ability of the Afghan security forces to take on the protection of the population.

“They have to come as liberators as they came in 2002 and not otherwise,” Karzai said of the perception that U.S. forces could be seen as occupiers.

An ideal strategy would lead to decreases in the number of troops "a few years down the road," Abdullah said on Fox, but action is needed in the country to stabilize the security situation.

"The future of this country will be at risk and the future of enagagement of the international community will be at risk," Abdullah said.
"This situation requires a sort of dramatic increase in the number of troops in order to stop it from further deteriorating and reversing it."

Still, Karzai's former foreign minister stressed, it's "very difficult to give any sort of a timetable" for success.

“The security situation is deteriorating unfortunately,” Abdullah said on CNN. “It can be reversed…we still have time.” But he warned that troops alone cannot stabilize the situation without a credible government. 

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On Fox, he took a swipe at the Karzai government's role in working with the U.S. on the security situation. "There is a record in the past few years," he said. "...The Afghan side has not been able to deliver."

Abdullah reiterated on CNN that he shared the assessment of McChrystal, who has reportedly recommended a surge of 40,000 troops, that the situation is deteriorating and that more international troops are needed “at this stage.” Abdullah also said that it is also important to consider a “road map” of drawing down U.S. and other international troops.

On "Fox News Sunday," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) reiterated the GOP push for the White House to follow McChrystal's recommendations.

"Republicans want very much to support the president's decision," Kyl said, and will if he backs the general's call for more troops. "Time is of the essence here."

Levin, meanwhile, accused Republican Party forces -- not Kyl, he stressed -- of putting undue pressure on the president to reach a decision on Afghanistan strategy quickly.

"The president is taking an appropriate amount of time," Levin said.

On "Meet the Press," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) defended Obama's decision process on how to proceed next in Afghanistan. Schumer said the president is dealing with it in a "careful, thoughtful way."

"I am wrestling with it myself ...and boy, is it difficult," Schumer said. "... There is no clear answer."

This story was updated at 1:55 p.m.