KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a hastily arranged visit to Afghanistan today to help resolve an election crisis sowing chaos in a country the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and lost more than 2,000 lives trying to stabilize.
The visit comes as Afghanistan shows signs of unravelling in its first democratic transfer of power from President Hamid Karzai, who followed a decade of Taliban governance. Kerry was to meet today with the two candidates claiming victory in last month's presidential election runoff.
"I've been in touch with both candidates several times, as well as President Karzai," Kerry said before leaving Beijing, where he attended a U.S.-China economic meeting. He called on them to "show critical statesmanship and leadership at a time when Afghanistan obviously needs it."
With Iraq wracked by insurgency, Afghanistan's election dispute poses a new challenge to President Barack Obama's 51/2-year effort to leave behind two secure nations while ending America's long wars. Obama wants to pull out all but about 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.