President Obama called a leading Afghan presidential candidate Monday to urge "calm and dialogue" after voter fraud allegations sparked violence, threatening Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power.
Supporters of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah are charging fraud after preliminary results showed the onetime favorite substantially trailing rival Ashraf Ghani.
Obama stressed in a phone call Monday night that "the preliminary results that were announced yesterday are neither final nor authoritative and may not even predict the final outcome, which could still change based on the findings of Afghans' electoral bodies," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
"There is a process in place for adjudicating the concerns that have been raised about fraud in that election,” he continued. “We're encouraging both candidates and their supporters to allow that process to work its way through so that all of these claims or concerns that have been raised about fraud can be examined and adjudicated so that both sides can respect the outcome of this process.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday warned that any efforts to seize power illegally could lead the U.S. to withdraw financial and security aid.
On Tuesday, Earnest sidestepped questions about whether that threat would include the removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Obama administration intends to leave the country by 2016, unless a bilateral security agreement for a residual force can be reached with the next Afghan president.
"Of course, for them to sign this agreement, the election needs to be concluded, and because of the concerns that have been raised about fraud, the conclusion of that election's being drawn out a little bit," Earnest said.
The White House spokesman acknowledged that the democratic processes were "certainly relatively new to the Afghan people," but said he remained hopeful candidates would abide by the "process that's laid out in the Afghan constitution for this."