U.S.-Afghan ties strained over election: NYT

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New York, Aug.29 (ANI): Reports of widespread fraud in the second presidential elections in Afghanistan have introduced an unwanted strain in the relationship between Kabul and the United States.

Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission said Friday that it had received over 2,000 complaints of fraud or abuse in last week's election.

Karzai's biggest rival and former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, showed reporters video of a local election chief in one polling station stuffing ballot boxes.

The vote count has progressed very slowly in Afghanistan - as of Friday, preliminary results with 17 percent of the vote in gave Karzai 44 percent and Abdullah 35 percent. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff must be held between the top two candidates.

For US President Barack Obama, who is on vacation here in Martha's Vineyard, and his administration, it is the worst of all possible outcomes.

According to the New York Times, administration officials have made no secret of their growing disenchantment with Karzai, who is viewed by the West as having so compromised himself to try to get elected - including striking deals with accused drug dealers and warlords for political gain.

But Karzai has shrewdly managed to turn that disenchantment to an advantage, portraying himself at home as the only political candidate willing to stand up to the dictates of the United States, according to Western officials.

Last week, Karzai and Richard C. Holbrooke, Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, are said to have had a heated interaction in Kabul over the way the elections may have been manipulated.

Holbrooke said that while Washington is maintaining a neutral position on the polls, did express concern about the complaints about fraud and ballot-box stuffing.

Holbrooke is also said to have demanded a runoff election in what one report characterized as the "explosive" meeting with Karzai.

Obama administration officials accused Karzai's agents of leaking to the news media select portions of the exchange between the two men, in order to make it look as if Washington is trying to force the rightful winner of the Afghan presidential elections - Karzai - into holding a runoff to satisfy American demands.

Whatever the case, the atmosphere may now have become so poisoned between the United States and Karzai that the Obama administration will be hampered no matter what course it takes. (ANI)

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