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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rejected a demand by his rival in next month's presidential run-off election, Abdullah Abdullah, for the removal of the head of the country's Independent Election Commission.
At the same time, Karzai and his main electoral challenger say the country's political future should be decided at the ballot box, not through the formation of a coalition government. But President Hamid Karzai's primary political rival continues to express concern over electoral fraud that plagued the country's first round of voting in August.
Campaign staffers for President Karzai say a second-round election is unavoidable and the only constitutional means to establish a new government. Appearing on the Fox News Sunday television program, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah also rejected the possibility of a power-sharing agreement between himself and Mr. Karzai.
"I should rule it [power sharing] out, because I am ready to go for a run-off," Abdullah said.
But Abdullah added that steps must be taken to ensure a fair vote next month.
"I am working with the international community on sets of conditions which have to be met," Abdullah said. "Without considering it [electoral reform], we will not have a transparent, credible process. And it will be very difficult to convince the people to turn out, to show up."
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The former foreign minister acknowledged some of his backers are urging a boycott of the second round of voting, but said he did not want to address the matter personally and risk sapping the electoral campaign of energy.
The credibility of Afghan leadership is of critical importance to the Obama administration, which is currently engaged in a review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has urged a dramatic troop increase to combat militants and help stabilize the country.
That recommendation has the backing of Republican legislators like Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, who also appeared on Fox News Sunday.
"The point of a counter-insurgency policy is for the U.S. forces and the NATO forces to be able to help protect the Afghan population," Kyl said. "Our being there will help provide some leverage over the government to be more cooperative and assist us in that effort. So I think for all of those reasons, I think following General McChrystal's recommendation makes a lot of sense."
But some Democratic lawmakers contend the long-term key to defeating the insurgency in Afghanistan is not to send more foreign troops, but to speed training of Afghan security forces. Carl Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"I think the counter-insurgency plan is the right way to go. And the way to make it effective, I believe, is to have a much larger, much quicker Afghan army, and a much better-equipped Afghan Army," Levin said.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly described the conflict in Afghanistan as one that the United States cannot afford to lose. Former Vice President Dick Cheney recently accused Mr. Obama of "dithering" [delay and indecisiveness] in responding to the challenges in Afghanistan. White House officials say the president has a clear obligation to assess the effectiveness of U.S. strategy before placing more American troops in harm's way.