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Page last updated at 00:57 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 01:57 UK

US senator warns on Afghan troops

US soldiers on patrol in Paktika province, 14 Oct 2009
There is a request for 40,000 US troops for Afghanistan

US Senator John Kerry has said it would be irresponsible to send more US troops to Afghanistan before the result of the presidential election there is clear.

Mr Kerry's comments came as foreign officials pressed Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept that he might have to face a run-off.

A fraud investigation is expected to bring Mr Karzai's vote count below the 50% needed to avoid a second round.

Washington is debating a request for 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

Gen Stanley McChrystal, the US and Nato commander in the country, recommended sending the extra troops as the US reviewed its strategy.

US and international troops are fighting resurgent Taliban forces in Afghanistan, an effort that observers say has been complicated by uncertainty over the 20 August election.

'Good governance'

In comments to CNN to be broadcast on Sunday, Mr Kerry advised against a troop increase before the result of the vote was clear.

AFGHAN FRAUD ALLEGATIONS
13 Oct: Karzai casts doubt on fair functioning of ECC, but his opponents accuse him of manufacturing his concerns
30 Sep: UN recalls envoy Peter Galbraith following row over the vote recount process
15 Sep: ECC chief says 10% of votes need to be recounted
8 Sep: IEC says votes from 600 polling stations "quarantined"
3 Sep: Claims 30,000 fraudulent votes cast for Karzai in Kandahar
30 Aug: 2,000 fraud allegations are probed; 600 deemed serious
20 Aug: Election day and claims 80,000 ballots were filled out fraudulently for Karzai in Ghazni
18 Aug: Ballot cards sold openly and voter bribes offered

In an interview from the Afghan capital, Kabul, the senator said it would be "entirely irresponsible" for US President Barack Obama to commit more troops "when we don't even have an election finished and know who the president is".

"When our own... commanding general tells us that a critical component of achieving our mission here is, in fact, good governance, and we're living with a government that we know has to change and provide it, how could the president responsibly say, 'Oh, they asked for more, sure, here they are?'" he said.

Mr Kerry, who chairs the US Senate's foreign relations committee, was one of several senior international figures in Kabul this weekend meeting Afghan leaders.

Initial results from August's election gave Mr Karzai 55% of the votes, with his nearest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, getting 28%.

Hamid Karzai in Kabul, 11 October 2009
Hamid Karzai is said to be angry at the prospect of facing a run-off

But the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) launched an investigation into the vote following allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

It will report to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which could adjust the final tally, bringing Mr Karzai's vote total below 50% and triggering a run-off.

Officials say Mr Karzai is furious over the prospect of facing a second round, threatening to delay or block attempts to hold a second round.

He has refused to accept the ECC's findings before they are released.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned the main candidates on Friday, urging Mr Karzai to accept the findings of the ECC's fraud investigations.

The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was also in Kabul to meet Mr Karzai and Mr Abdullah.

The ECC had been expected to announce its findings on Saturday. But the reported confrontation with Mr Karzai may delay the official announcement of results.



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