Obama applauds Karzai's decision to participate in runoff

President Barack Obama on Tuesday hailed Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's decision to agree to a Nov. 7 runoff in that country's election, after independent agencies said fraud at the polls had called Karzai's reelection into question.

The White House has watched and waited for the process in Afghanistan to play itself out as Obama considers how to move forward with the U.S. military strategy in the region. Obama and his aides have struggled to explain how a new strategy might work if the country's government appeared illegitimate in the eyes of Afghans.

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Obama said the runoff is a second step "in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the president has not decided whether a decision on a strategy will come before the runoff.

"Obviously, as I continue to say, the decision will be made in the coming weeks as the president goes through an examination of our policy," Gibbs said.

"While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai’s constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy," Obama said. "The Afghan constitution and laws are strengthened by President Karzai’s decision, which is in the best interests of the Afghan people."

Karzai was joined by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) as he announced that he was accepting the judgment of an international review that found he won less than 50 percent of the vote in late August.

Obama congratulated both Karzai and his chief election rival, Abdullah Abdullah, and the other candidates who "made this such a vibrant campaign."

"It is now vital that all elements of Afghan society continue to come together to advance democracy, peace and justice," Obama said. "We look forward to a second round of voting and the completion of the process to choose the president of Afghanistan. In that effort, the United States and the international community are committed to partnering with the Afghan people."