White House officials say Abdullah Abdullah may have quit Afghanistan's presidential run-off for political reasons. They indicate his decision may not have a big impact on U.S. President Barack Obama's ongoing review of Afghan war strategy.
In his formal announcement, Abdullah Abdullah cited fraud in the first round of voting, and complained that the head of Afghanistan's election commission was left in place for the run-off by President Hamid Karzai.
President Obama's top White House advisor, David Axelrod, downplays any impact Abdullah's decision might have on the administration's Afghan policy review.
Axelrod stresses the run-off will go forward under terms set in the Afghan constitution. Appearing on the CBS television program Face the Nation, he notes Abdullah withdrew in the midst of polls showing the opposition candidate was likely to lose.
"Mr. Abdullah has exercised his right as a candidate to withdraw," Axelrod said. "He has made a political decision to withdraw from this contest and that does not markedly change the situation."
On ABC's This Week, White House counselor Valerie Jarrett made a similar point, saying Abdullah's withdrawal will not complicate President Obama's efforts to revise his war strategy.
But she refused to be pinned down on exactly when the president would make an announcement on possible increases in troop levels. She said only that a rigorous review process is in place.
"He is looking for a strategy that leads to keeping our nation safe. And so the timing for that is completely up to the president," Jarrett said. "He will make the decision he has all the facts that he needs to make the right decision."
Many Republicans are pushing the president to approve a substantial increase in deployments to Afghanistan. And on Sunday, House Minority leader John Boehner pressed their case in a CNN interview, saying he is concerned that further delays will put troops already on the ground in jeopardy.
Also appearing on the weekly television news interview programs was Senator Joseph Lieberman - an independent who usually aligns with the Democrats. He urged the president to look beyond the current political confusion in Afghanistan.
"I think it is time for us to stop beating up on President Karzai and start building up President Karzai and his government to be the government we need because they are not the enemy! The enemy is the Taliban," Lieberman said.
Lieberman told Face the Nation that American troops in the region need help, and he called for the president to send re-enforcements as soon as possible.