There is mounting concern about the aftermath of Afghanistan's presidential election. No results or even an estimated voter turnout have been announced by the country's election officials. Partial results from some provinces are expected Tuesday, however. But the election overseers say official results may have to be delayed while they investigate a rising number of serious charges of voting fraud.
Amid growing speculation here that the results could show President Hamid Karzai capturing a first-round all-out victory, his primary opponent is already crying foul.
Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is alleging orchestrated fraud conducted by the Karzai administration and clearly hinting he might not accept the outcome. "The president of the election commission, he is working for the incumbent, he is like the commander-in-chief of the commissioner, rather than a commissioner himself," he alleges. "That is very obvious. There, we don't have a faith in the chief of the Independent Election Commission."
The international community, which has poured billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan during Mr. Karzai's tenure, is expressing support for the election commission's handling of the process.
President Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan is echoing that support. He spoke to reporters during a visit to a regional U.S. military command center in Mazar-i-Sharif.
"In the end, the official count is what determines it in a free election. So the United States' position and that of all our NATO allies, all the many nations that are here to help Afghanistan is unanimous. We all will respect the decision of the Independent Election Commission," Richard Holbrooke said.
American concerns go beyond the outcome of the election. There is growing unease in Washington, especially at the Pentagon, about the resurgence of the Taliban.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, appearing (Sunday) on the U.S. network program "Meet the Press," was asked if America's military is fulfilling its central mission in the region to battle al-Qaida and its extremist allies.
"That includes the Taliban, which has grown to be much more sophisticated in the last two to three years and is a much tougher enemy in that regard. And they really are linked. Across that border in Pakistan, they provide the safe haven for al-Qaida. They also feed fighters into Afghanistan. Al-Qaida would very much like to see Kabul become the capital that it was before, essentially run by extremists," Mullen asserts.
To prevent that, the top U.S. commander here may soon ask the president to send even more troops to Afghanistan. That could prove problematic politically for the Obama administration which has inherited an eight-year-long war that is losing support in recent American public opinion polls.