Oct. 13, 2009— -- After admitting "instances of fraud" in Afghanistan's highly controversial Aug. 20 election, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the fight against al Qaeda was not in his country, but he welcomes additional U.S. troops to help protect the population.
"Al Qaeda was driven out of Afghanistan in 2001. They have no base in Afghanistan," Karzai told "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer today. "The war against terrorism is not in Afghan villages, is not in the Afghan countryside."
Rather, Karzai said the war should be taken to terrorist sanctuaries and training grounds outside Afghan borders and should also target al Qaeda's financial support.
"We must all join hands, Pakistan and Afghanistan and our allies, to wage a more effective campaign against them politically and, where it is required, militarily," Karzai said.
Karzai's comments came as debate rages in Washington, D.C., about how to proceed in Afghanistan. White House aides told ABC News earlier this month that a "larger strategy" is under consideration that would shift the focus to target al Qaeda in Pakistan.
The Afghan president defended Afghanistan's recent controversial presidential elections as "good and fair and worthy of praise," while admitting there were likely irregularities that had been blown out of proportion by the media.
"I'm certain that, as in any election ... there were irregularities," Karzai said. "There were instances of fraud, no doubt, but the election, as a whole, was good and free and democratic."
Karzai added that media reports to the contrary "make [him] angry.
"We must not turn an election of Afghan people, a victory of the Afghan people into a nightmare for the Afghan people," he said.
Karzai was noncommittal toward the United Nations-backed panel that is investigating what the mission chief called widespread fraud, citing the recent resignation of one of his supporters on the panel, Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai, who claimed the panel was plagued by "the interference of foreigners."
"I'm not going to say the Election Complaint Commission is illegitimate, the Election Complaint Commission is legitimate ... but that resignation has cast serious doubt on the functioning of the commission," Karzai said.
A deputy campaign manager for Karzai's top challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, said today that Barakzai's resignation was a political move orchestrated by Karzai to intentionally cast that doubt on the U.N. panel, The Associated Press reported.
"Barakzai's resignation has direct connection to Karzai. It was Karzai's idea," Saleh Mohammad Registani said. "Karzai is trying to bring the work of the ECC into question."
Karzai said he would submit to a runoff in the election if it becomes clear the "vote of the Afghan people have been played with and if the Afghans have not voted a clear winner," but not if the runoff becomes a political decision.
"That's against the wishes of the Afghan people. … That should not happen," he said.
Karzai Responds to Corruption Claims, Agrees With McChrystal Report
Responding to broader claims of criticism and corruption sounded by U.S. senators and military officials alike, Karzai admitted the country has its problems.
"As you have debates in America, as you have problems in America, as you have issues of corruption in America -- we have them too in Afghanistan, but on a much larger scale because our country is underdeveloped and devastated by years of war," Karzai said.
To help rebuild the country, Karzai said he fully supports U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's report to shift focus in Afghanistan toward protecting the population and, reportedly, to bring in an additional 40,000 U.S. troops as long as it's decided jointly by the United States and Afghanistan.
"Certain elements in Gen. McChrystal's report are extremely important and deserve our full support," Karzai said, while admitting that he's not a military expert. "I'm fully behind him for what he's seeking in his report."
Karzai also called for American help, "eventually for that to lead to Afghans to taking issues in their own hands and on their own feet."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday criticized Karzai and said the Afghan president needed to do more for the people of Afghanistan, Reuters reported.
"We are very clear that if this election results in his being re-elected, there must be a new relationship between him and the people of Afghanistan, and between his government and governments like yours and mine which are supporting the efforts in Afghanistan to stabilize and secure the country," Clinton told BBC radio.
"It is a more complex picture than sometimes emerges from snapshot views. But, clearly, we expect more, we're going to be working toward more," she added.
The next time he meets Clinton, Karzai said, "there is a lot that [he] will say to her when she comes to Afghanistan.
"There is a lot we can do together."