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White House aides downplay Afghan vote turmoil

world Updated: Nov 01, 2009 22:28 IST

AFP
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Fresh turmoil in Afghanistan's presidential election will not complicate the US decision on whether to send more troops to the war-torn country, White House advisors said on Sunday.

Top presidential adviser David Axelrod said called the decision by Afghanistan candidate Abdullah Abdullah to pull out of the November 7 presidential run-off a "political judgment" that was unlikely to affect an impending decision by President Barack Obama on troop strength there.

Abdullah's withdrawal, "doesn't markedly change the situation," in Afghanistan, Axelrod told CBS television, adding the opposition candidate is "establishing himself as the leader of the opposition."

"Every poll that has been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway. So we are going to deal with the government" of incumbent President Hamid Karzai, Axelrod said.

"Obviously there issues we need to discuss such as reducing the high level of corruption. These are issues we'll take up with President Karzai."

An election commission found that about a quarter of all votes cast in the first round of balloting in Afghanistan were fraudulent.

Revised results showed that Karzai fell just below the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright election victory, forcing the runoff which was to have been held later this week.

The latest Afghan election turmoil comes with Obama closing in on his long-awaited answer to war commander General Stanley McChrystal's request for 40,000 more counter-insurgency troops.

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama continues to deliberate with his top aides on the way forward in Afghanistan, ahead of his decision on troop strength, which is anticipated in the next few weeks.

"What the president has said consistently is he is going through a very rigorous process," said Jarrett, speaking on ABC television.

"Before he puts our men and women in harm's way, he wants to make absolutely sure he has a strategy," said Jarrett.

"It isn't a matter of how many troops are sent over, although that is an important component," she said.

"We have to look at what's going on on the ground, and what our allies are doing and the state of the government in Afghanistan."