As Afghan and western officials urgently prepare for a planned presidential run-off election, President Hamid Karzai's challenger told ABC News he is open to an "interim" government if conditions cannot be met for a free and fair election by the Nov. 7 runoff date.
"If it's not possible to go for a second round because of practical reasons, we also need to talk about the solutions for it," Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said. "If we cannot hold it before the winter, then what about the interim period? These are the scenarios which are ahead of us and we should be ready for it."
He said such an agreement would be an "interim arrangement" to be in place until a runoff could be held in the spring. "That's a scenario that I'm open to talking about," he said.
The runoff date was announced Tuesday after Karzai had threatened to reject a report by international monitors that claimed widespread election vote rigging had accounted for 1.3 million fraudulent votes, including more than 1 million that had been cast for Karzai.
Subtracting those votes from Karzai's total put his vote at 49.6 percent, and anything under 50 percent called for a runoff. Karzai agreed to the electoral redo after heavy lobbying by the Obama administration and by face to face encouragement by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Many here are concerned about the huge logistical challenges of pulling off a second national election with only two weeks to prepare. Among the most serious obstacles are the country's fragile security situation, which kept many voters from the polls during the first round on Aug. 20, and the approaching winter, which may cut off some communities due to snow.
There are also concerns that it will be difficult to prevent the widespread fraud that disrupted the first round of voting.
Going into greater detail than he has so far, Abdullah laid out three changes he'd like to see before he would consider the run-off "free and fair."
Abdullah wants guarantees that Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, which he described as "far from independent," acts fairly. He wants steps to prevent the government "from using state apparatus in favor of the incumbent," which he described as "one of the main problems in the last election."
And Abdullah said improved security is essential for holding a new election.
"My main focus is on…making preparations for the second round. At the same time, I emphasize that the environment should be different. It cannot be under the same rules and procedures and circumstances and conditions," he said.
Asked about the current debate over U.S. troops levels, Abdullah said he agrees with Gen. Stanley McChrystal that the U.S. could lose the war without a significant increase 40,000 troops or more.
"This deteriorating security situation, it has to be stopped from deteriorating further. This trend has to be reversed. This cannot be achieved with the current level of troops or just a few more. It needs a major effort," he said.
Echoing the administration's demand for a credible election before any troop decision, Abdullah said, "The prospect for success of such an effort depends on [a] credible partner, credible Afghan partner, credible government, one which does not stab its partners in the back."