Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Abdullah Abdullah, the challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, withdrew as a candidate from the presidential election run-off in Afghanistan. President Karzai was then declared the winner by default under Afghan law. U.S. President Barack Obama called President Karzai to congratulate him on the election, but stressed that the United States and other countries were looking for serious signs of reform. For his part, Karzai has also pledged a crackdown on corruption.
The original elections were complicated by serious fraud, but the worldwide attention on that election fraud may have deterred similar abuses in the runoff election. Many observers noted that Karzai would most likely had one if Abdullah Abdullah had stayed in the race, and winning a runoff election may have increased Karzai's legitimacy to govern Afghanistan. But the runoff election may have put some lives at risk if the Taliban attacked any of the polling places.
With the withdrawal of the challenger, Karzai was lawfully elected under Afghan law. The United States and other nations are looking to see if he will be the "credible partner" needed in Afghanistan. U.S. President Obama is still weighing a decision on whether to increase, maintain, or decrease the number of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, has asked for 40,000 more troops in addition to the 68,000 now serving there.