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Afghanistan’s Disputed Election Complicates U.S. Strategy

As President Obama develops a new Afghanistan strategy, rising violence there and an unresolved election have combined to sap public support for the war. Ashraf Ghani, who was one of Afghanistan's presidential candidates, discusses his country's future.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally tonight, our newsmaker interview with former Afghan official and presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani.

    Margaret Warner is in charge.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    For the fifth time in recent weeks, President Obama called in his national security team at the White House today to continue their reassessment of Afghan war strategy.

    Earlier today, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown went to the House of Commons to announce that despite mounting British deaths in Afghanistan, he was sending an additional 350 troops there.

    GORDON BROWN, prime minister, Britain: The combination of force levels, equipment levels, and tasks that I'm setting out today follows the clear military advice from our chiefs of staff and from our commanders on the ground on implementing our strategy and reducing the risk to our forces. And it's on this basis that I have agreed in principle to a new British force level of 9,500, which will be put into effect once these conditions are met.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The U.S. ground commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has recommended President Obama send many more American troops, up to tens of thousands more, according to reports.

    But, yesterday, the president indicated his decision is still some time off.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We are going through a very deliberate process that is completely consistent with what I said back in March. After the election, I said it was important for us to reassess the situation on the ground. And that's what we're doing, not just on the military side, but also on the civilian side.

    I would expect that we will have a completion of this current process in the coming weeks.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    One of the factors going into his decision, but still unknown, is who will be president of Afghanistan in the next five years.

    Last month, Afghan election officials declared President Hamid Karzai had won 54.6 percent of the vote in the August presidential contest, enough for reelection. But the entire process was marred by widespread allegations of fraud.

    More than 3,000 polling stations were deemed to have reported questionable results, for example, all ballots cast for the same single candidate. Ten percent of those questionable ballot boxes are now being audited. The results are expected by the end of this week.

    If they show Karzai fell below 50 percent, he would face a runoff against second-place finisher Abdullah Abdullah.

    Another Karzai opponent in the race was former World Bank official and Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. He ran on a platform of good governance. Ghani served in Karzai's original cabinet, but quit five years ago, alleging corruption and mismanagement.

    Though his campaign was managed by former Clinton political guru James Carville, Ghani came in a distant fourth.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Ashraf Ghani is in Washington this week for a series of meetings. And he joins us now for his assessment of where Afghanistan goes from here.

    Mr. Ghani, thank you for returning to this table.

    ASHRAF GHANI, former Afghanistan presidential candidate: Pleasure to be with you.