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Karzai Calls for Afghan Unity After Election

November 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Margaret Warner updates the situation in Afghanistan, where she has been reporting on President Hamid Karzai's victory after a disputed election.
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JIM LEHRER: The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, addressed his country today, and he called for unity. He also made a broad-based promise of reforms, but gave no specifics.

Margaret Warner is in Kabul with our lead story report.

HAMID KARZAI, president, Afghanistan: All those who want to work with me are most welcome, regardless of whether they opposed me in the election or whether they supported me in the election.

MARGARET WARNER: The Afghan president made his bid for broader support a day after he was declared the victor in a much disputed election.

But Hamid Karzai did not mention his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, who dropped out of a planned runoff, charging it could be neither free, nor fair.

HAMID KARZAI: On the government of the future, as I have stated earlier, it will be a government of unity; it will be a government for all the Afghan people. And, as a matter of fact, as I have said many times before, I don’t have an opposition. I don’t have any personality or any group as my opposition. And I don’t want to be opposed to anybody. That’s why I don’t have a political party. So, my government will be for all Afghans.

MARGARET WARNER: Karzai also extended his hand to the Taliban insurgents, urging them to come back to their country.

But the Taliban claimed a victory of their own, crowing about their role in derailing the runoff. “Our brave mujahedeen were able to disrupt the entire process,” the Taliban statement said. “Even the airstrikes and ground forces were not able to stop our mujahedeen from their attacks.”

Karzai conceded, his government his been, quote, “seriously discredited” by administrative corruption. He promised to remove this stigma, to restore the confidence of Afghans and of the nations supplying tens of thousands of troops and billions of dollars to shore up his country.

HAMID KARZAI: We will keep trying our best to address the questions that we have facing Afghanistan and to make sure that the wishes of the Afghan people come true, and, also, at the same time, to make sure that the taxpayers’ money coming to us from your countries is spent wisely and rightly.

World watching Afghanistan

Kai Eide
United Nations
Some Afghans believe that Afghanistan is of such strategic importance that we will stay here, whatever happens. It is simply not correct.

MARGARET WARNER: For his part, Abdullah stayed out of public view today. Instead, he huddled with his advisers on how to respond to Karzai and to the Afghani election commission that yesterday had declared Karzai the winner. Aides said Abdullah would lay out his plans and expectations at a midday news conference tomorrow.

World leaders also watched and waited. On Monday, President Obama said the U.S. needs to see deeds, not just words, from Karzai. And, today, Kai Eide, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said Karzai must weed out corrupt officials and name a competent government, or risk losing international backing.

KAI EIDE: We are really at the turning point. We have seen how the support for the commitment to Afghanistan is being questioned in the number of troop-contributing countries and donor countries. If that doubt has to be removed, it is, first of all, up to the president and his new cabinet to do that.

MARGARET WARNER: So, what you're saying is, if he doesn't make these changes, that international support could fade substantially?

KAI EIDE: I think the debate that we have seen over the few months in the international community will become even more heated, even more difficult, if we do not have an important, positive signal given through the composition of a new government.

MARGARET WARNER: Eide warned that Karzai should not delude himself into thinking international support is limitless.

KAI EIDE: Some Afghans believe that Afghanistan is of such strategic importance that we will stay here, whatever happens. It is simply not correct.

Merkel addresses Congress

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor
The international community's mission in Afghanistan is, without any doubt, a tough one. It demands a lot from all of us.

MARGARET WARNER: In Washington, the big question mark has been whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan. President Obama continued to mull that issue today, as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We appreciate the sacrifices of German soldiers in Afghanistan and our common work there to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and to create the environment in which the Afghan people themselves can provide for their own security.

MARGARET WARNER: Later, the chancellor addressed Afghanistan and Germany's troop commitment there in a speech to a joint session of Congress.

ANGELA MERKEL, chancellor, Germany: The international community's mission in Afghanistan is, without any doubt, a tough one. It demands a lot from all of us, and it now needs to be transferred to the next phase as soon as the new Afghan government is in office. Our objective must be a strategy, the transfer of responsibility.

MARGARET WARNER: France also said it would stay the course in Afghanistan. But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoed warnings that President Karzai must take immediate action on corruption, if he expects the U.K.'s support to continue.