U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States and its
allies must work with whatever Afghan government emerges from the
disputed August 20 presidential election.
Gates told reporters en route to Asia late Monday that working out allegations of fraud will be an "evolutionary process," and decisions about strategy and troop decisions should not wait until a new government to take office.
Gates comments contrast with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who said Sunday that President Obama will not decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan until the election is settled and the Afghan government is ready to work effectively with the United States.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan (General Stanley McChrystal) is said to be asking the president for as many as 40,000 additional troops.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will announce Tuesday how he plans to proceed after a U.N.-backed panel threw out nearly a third of his votes from the disputed presidential poll.
In a statement released Monday, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) says it "found clear and convincing evidence of fraud" at more than 200 polling sites. The findings have put President Karzai below the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off against chief rival Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that it will be "incredibly important" for the international community to see that Afghanistan's leaders are willing to make the country's election process legitimate. But Gates says coalition forces will have to help the government build legitimacy and tackle corruption regardless of who is declared victor.
Speaking at the State Department Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not say whether Mr. Karzai would accept a run-off election with Abdullah, but did say she was "encouraged" by "the direction the situation is moving."