Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kerry talks Karzai into runoff

Sen. John Kerry says he told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that without a runoff election it would be hard for his country to move forward.

Getty Images

Sen. John Kerry says he told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that without a runoff election it would be hard for his country to move forward.

KABUL — After nearly 20 hours of tense, exhausting talks over four days, Sen. John Kerry was convinced by midday Tuesday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had accepted the need for a runoff election. But as dignitaries and reporters gathered at the presidential palace in Kabul for the 1 p.m. announcement, Karzai was still not ready.

While the world waited, Karzai and Kerry took a long walk through the secluded palace grounds. As they passed among the rose bushes and toured the presidential mosque, Karzai reiterated his conviction that he had been cheated out of a legitimate victory. The Massachusetts Democrat restated his case that Karzai had to put his country first and that it would be hard, maybe impossible, for Afghanistan — or the United States — to move ahead without a second round.

"We talked about a lot of things — the way forward, personal things," Kerry said later. At 4:30, an unsmiling Karzai finally appeared before the waiting cameras to endorse a Nov. 7 runoff between him and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Resolution of the high political drama in Kabul, the culmination of days of intense pressure on Karzai by the Obama administration and NATO allies, allows the White House to return to deliberations over how to proceed in the faltering Afghanistan war. President Barack Obama, who had not spoken to Karzai during the election talks, telephoned "the American people's appreciation for this step."

"President Karzai, as well as the other candidates," Obama told reporters, "have shown that they have the interests of the Afghan people at heart."

Senior administration officials were quick to acknowledge that the end of the runoff dispute was only one step on a long road. The new election, to be held as the harsh Afghan winter begins, faces perils ranging from Taliban attacks to a repeat of the first-round fraud that resulted in Karzai's accumulating nearly a million illegal votes, according to a U.N.-backed panel that this week stripped him of a preliminary majority.

Even if the runoff proceeds smoothly and Karzai wins, as widely anticipated, he remains, in the administration's view, a less-than-ideal partner, unable or unwilling to end the corruption and inefficiency that have marked his five years in office.

White House discussions on deploying the tens of thousands of troops requested by the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan will continue for several more weeks. Whatever Obama decides will be criticized by many in Congress and among the public, where support for his handling of the eight-year war has been falling rapidly.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the administration was moving toward a decision on its Afghanistan strategy and that military operations were ongoing. U.S. soldiers, he said, were "not all just staying in their tents while we wait the outcome of the election."

Flanked by Kerry, U.N. special envoy Kai Eide and the U.S., French and British ambassadors, Karzai called on Afghans "to change this into an opportunity to strengthen our resolve and determination to move this country forward and participate in the new round of elections."

Abdullah, who also received a call from Obama, scheduled his own news conference for today.

Kerry talks Karzai into runoff 10/20/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 8:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith by the time the kid can sign?

    Blogs

    Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

  2. St. Pete Pride to focus on transgender inclusion with first-ever TransPride March

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Nathan Bruemmer remembers his first Pride parade in the late 1990s. He hadn't yet come out as transgender.

    Nathan Bruemmer stands on the St Pete Pride parade route on Bayshore Drive NE Thursday, June 22, 2017. Bruemmer is the only trans member on the St. Pete Pride's board. This year he organized a TransPride March to begin Saturday's festivities before the floats come down along the bay. The TransPride March will include members of the transgender, gender-non-conforming, queer communities, their families, friends, allies and supporters.
  3. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  4. Motorcyclist in serious condition after crash in St. Petersburg

    Accidents

    A motorcyclist is in serious condition after he crashed into a car in St. Petersburg on Thursday afternoon, according to St. Petersburg Police.

  5. 20 great images from around the globe for June 16 to June 23

    World

    Photos of the week for June 16 - June 23: A deadly collision at sea, a WWII vet turns 100, gorgeous images from Bermuda, Germany, Libya, Milan and Rio, Otto Warmbier's parents lay their son to rest, and more.

    A commercial airplane flies past the moon above Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday, June 17, 2017. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)