Kerry in Afghanistan to help resolve election

 

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday to help resolve the country’s disputed presidential election and encourage a smooth transition of power.

Kerry plans to meet with both presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani as well as current President Hamid Karzai, the State Department said.

“The Secretary will discuss the ongoing political transition, reinforcing the President’s message that we expect a thorough review of all reasonable allegations of fraud and that we will not accept any extra-constitutional measures,” State Department press office director Jeff Ratke said in a statement. 

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The United States, he added, “does not support an individual candidate,” but supports a process that produces a president committed to democracy in Afghanistan. 

Earlier this week, preliminary results from the June 14 runoff election found Ghani, a former World Bank official, with about 56 percent of the vote.

Abdullah, long viewed as the front-runner, rejected the results and alleged voter fraud. His supporters accused Karzai of fixing the votes in Ghani’s favor and demanded that Abdullah form a “parallel government.” 

Kerry warned against forming a breakaway government and expressed concern over reports of protests, which the U.S. fears could spiral into violence.

On Monday and Tuesday, President Obama spoke with each candidate to call for calm and stressed that they engage in political dialogue.

“He reiterated that all parties should avoid steps that undermine Afghan national unity and should come together to work toward a resolution that represents the will of the Afghan people and produces a government that can bring Afghanistan together,” the White House said.

After an audit is conducted, the final election results are expected to be released on July 24. 

The U.S. has a stake in the new Afghan government as it weighs the possibility of leaving a residual military force in the country after the end of combat operations.

Obama announced in late May that most U.S. troops would pull out by the end of 2014 and 9,800 would remain through 2016.