Kerry: Obama should wait on Afghanistan until after runoff vote

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), fresh off a trip from Afghanistan, said Wednesday that President Barack Obama should wait until after the results of that country's Nov. 7 runoff election are known before deciding on a strategy for the region.

The White House has said only that Obama will make a decision on the way forward in Afghanistan in the coming weeks, but Kerry told reporters at the White House that "common sense" would dictate that Obama "wait to see what kind of government you have to work with at that time."

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Kerry, who was instrumental in convincing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to the runoff, met with the president Wednesday afternoon.

The 2004 presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the time between now and the runoff is "only two weeks," and he is confident that the results would be found "rapidly."

The senator also said that Obama could go ahead and make a preliminary request for additional troops, but not pull the trigger until he decides on a strategy. Kerry said U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal told him that it would take months to get additional troops on the ground anyway.

Kerry said the president did not tell him what his schedule is for making a decision, and the topic of timing did not come up in their meeting.

Republicans have blasted Obama for delaying his decision, and GOPers said this week that the president should not wait for the new election to follow the advice of McChrystal, who has requested an additional 40,000 troops.

Kerry said the stakes are too high to rush a decision on a strategy that depends so much on having a legitimate Afghan government in place.

"It's very hard for me to believe that the president would decide otherwise," he said. 

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) on Wednesday called the use of the election as a reason for delaying a decision a "red herring."

“This red herring, and those peddling it as an excuse, have missed a truth that is even more applicable to the mountains and villages in Afghanistan than our towns and cities here in America — all politics is local," Bond said on the Senate floor. "While we would all like to see a pristine election in Afghanistan, something we still haven’t accomplished 100 percent in our own nation, the Taliban is not waiting for election results to continue to kill our troops and attack the people of Afghanistan. Security in Afghanistan will not come from Kabul; it has to be built village by village and valley by valley.”