Kerry: “Common Sense” that Obama Should Wait on New Afghan Strategy Until Run-off Complete

Oct 21, 2009 4:14pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., freshly back from his five-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan where he brokered an agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a new presidential run—off election, emerged from his nearly hour long meeting with President Obama in the Oval office this afternoon. Kerry said the President should wait until the end of the run-off election to make an overall Afghanistan strategy decision. “I think you really want to know that this has worked and you want to know what kind of government is coming out of it,” the Senator from Massachusetts said, “I would absolutely counsel the president to wait until the end of the runoff.” Kerry said he did not tell the President that he should wait until the run-off is over during their meeting, he claims the question did not come up within their meeting specifically. Yet it did not stop the Senator from repeating his opinion many times before stakeout cameras at the White House today. “I will suspect that he will be interested, just as a matter of common sense. He’s going to want to know what kind of government that he’s going to deal with in Afghanistan before he makes a decision. So I’d be surprised if he wasn’t on the same wavelength.” Kerry continued: “I don’t see how you turn to a mom or dad in Massachusetts, or California or in Wichita you know or anywhere and ask their kids to go out into an augmented effort in a country where a critical component of the mission you’re asking them to perform requires good government and you don’t know what the government is. So I would strongly urge the president to put this together in the next weeks.” The results of the run-off could not be for a couple of weeks, though, possibly delaying for awhile the White House’s release of their strategy. Kerry said he believes there will be a “fairly rapid determination,” on the results -that will come in “a very short span of time,” and its common sense that the President should wait. “I have no question that in a two person race, given the experience of the last go-round, that every effort possible is going to be made to try to find the results as rapidly as possible,” Kerry answered, “I think that as a matter of common sense the President would feel that it makes sense to wait till the end of this two week period. Two weeks is a very short span of time folks to determine whether or not you have a government to work with in war. It is very hard for me to believe the President would decide otherwise.” Kerry was asked about some calling his actions this week as those of a so-called de factor Secretary of State. He called this characterization unfair, that he had Secretary of State’s Clinton’s support, and he was not freelancing in any way. “That’s an unfair characterization. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Kerry said, “I was in touch with Secretary Clinton constantly. I appreciate the way in which she embraced my role. We talked frequently. I thought it was important that I not take steps in some freelancing way that wasn’t appropriate to the administration’s policy. And she encouraged me to stay at it and be engaged in it and I think we work as an effective team.” While in the region in which he had multiple discussion with both Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as his opponent Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Kerry said he was very careful to not talk about the concept of a coalition government, which had been floated as a possible remedy. “That would have been inappropriate, he said, and added that it is his understanding that there may have been a discussion between Abdullah and Karzai today. Kerry said that Karazi asked him for assurances that there was no repetition in last election, which was wrought with fraud. “That said let me clear with everybody, this is a very tough environment in which to hold an election. And there are some serious security risks which we all understand,” Kerry added, “Our military is moving even right now appropriately to prepare for this runoff.” Kerry said that during his meetings over 5 days with Karzai, that the Afghan President was at times very skeptical. “There were times when he was prepared to say this ‘isn’t going anywhere’ and we had to work to find ways to convince him that we could actually be productive and actually get work additional work done. And he, to his credit you know didn’t just lock the door, shut his mind and say I’ve had enough. But he engaged in that. He bought into the relative efforts to try to find ways of looking at things.” Kerry said Karzai was very patient with the process, amid “internal pressures” not to mention” that he believed very deeply that he won the first round.
“So there was a powerful need to overcome both those domestic pressures as well as his own personal beliefs.” -Sunlen Miller

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