Afghan Vote Fraud Allegations May Not Sink Karzai, Corker Says
By Viola Gienger

Oct. 9 (BLOOMBERG) — The disputed election of Afghan President Hamid Karzai may be less worrying to war-weary Afghans than to the Obama administration, according to U.S. Senator Bob Corker, who observed the August election.

Karzai probably retains enough popularity to win reelection even in a runoff or a rerun of the election, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Corker said.

“Internal to the country, I don’t get the sense they’re nearly as concerned about this election process as we are,” said Corker, a Tennessee Republican. “My antenna is up regarding making too big a deal out of this as a reason to change our policy.”

U.S. officials cite the fraud allegations as one reason President Barack Obama is reviewing the strategy he laid out in March for defeating al-Qaeda by ensuring it can never again find a haven in Afghanistan. The examination will help determine whether Obama adds as many as 40,000 more troops to the 68,000 the U.S. will have in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

The disputed election is “a concern to us,” Democrat Obama has said.

“What’s most important is that there is a sense of legitimacy in Afghanistan among the Afghan people for their government,” Obama told reporters in Pittsburgh last month. “If there is not, that makes our task much more difficult.’

Mobilizing Afghans
Central to the original policy was training local army and police and strengthening the government’s ability to deliver education, health care and other services to the population.

A lack of credibility might weaken Karzai’s capacity to mobilize his government and the Afghan people to work with the NATO-led alliance against the Taliban insurgents that harbored al-Qaeda until their ouster following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Karzai had a clear advantage over his closest challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, in a poll of Afghans conducted a month before the election by the International Republican Institute. About 44 percent of respondents in the poll, conducted in person, planned to vote for Karzai compared with 26 percent for Abdullah, according to the Associated Press.

“You’re dealing with a Karzai government knowing that, one way or another, the end result of the election, at best, is Karzai again,” said Anthony Cordesman, a military strategist at the Center for Security and International Studies in Washington. “That’s certainly an area of intense study in the White House.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the results of the national and international investigations of the August election should show whether Karzai’s disputed majority can be verified.

Government Legitimacy
“What’s important is whether or not the government of Afghanistan has legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghans,” Gates said on CNN’s State of the Union program on Sept. 27. “All of the information that we have available to us today indicates that continues to be the case.”

U.K. General David Richards, chief of the general staff, said Afghans don’t want a second election and are ready to accept Karzai to avoid further instability.

‘President Karzai does understand that we’re all watching,” Richards, who was a commander in Afghanistan before taking his current post, told an audience at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington policy group, last month.

The White House is awaiting the outcome of the election spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier this week.

“Until the election is determined, he’s the leader of the country and we continue to work with him,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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