Levin: Election turmoil can ‘derail’ Afghan gains

 

Senators expressed worry Thursday that political turmoil in Afghanistan could “derail” U.S. gains there and urged local officials to quickly address allegations of widespread election fraud.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the dispute "threatens to derail the significant gains made throughout the country." 

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah is charging voter fraud after initial results showed the onetime favorite trailing opponent Ashraf Ghani by a large margin. Abdullah is weighing whether to form his own rival government amid worsening election-related violence.

"Regardless whether the candidates can agree on the details of the audit process, it is the duty of the Afghan election commissions to move forward to identify and eliminate fraudulent ballots, so that they can announce a credible election result," Levin said. 

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Levin called for the Afghan presidential candidates to abide by the findings of a comprehensive audit of election results.

His remarks came during a hearing for top military nominees, including President Obama’s pick for the next U.S. and NATO commander, Army Gen. John Campbell. 

Lawmakers questioned the president’s decision to draw down U.S. forces and end the combat mission by the end of 2016 amid growing violence.

Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he was "deeply troubled" by the president's drawdown plan, which he said was "based on arbitrary timelines instead of the best advice of our military commanders and facts on the ground." 

"The president tried the same failed policies in Iraq in 2011 and I fear we’re doomed to repeat the same mistake in Afghanistan," Inhofe said. 

Campbell is currently the vice chief of staff of the Army, and has served as deputy chief of staff of the Army and commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan. 

"This conflict has defined much of my career, and I am honored to be nominated," he told lawmakers at the hearing. 

"There will be many challenges, but I have confidence in the strength of the Afghan National Security Forces," he added.