Obama asks Afghan prez candidates to refrain from violence

In an unusual personal intervention in a foreign election, US President Barack Obama has asked the two presidential candidates in Afghanistan`s disputed polls to maintain calm and threatened to cut-off American aid if "extra-constitutional" steps are taken. Obama made a phone call to Abdullah Abdullah Monday night and then followed it up with a call yesterday to Abdullah`s rival Ashraf Ghani.

PTI| Updated: Jul 09, 2014, 09:54 AM IST

Washington: In an unusual personal intervention in a foreign election, US President Barack Obama has asked the two presidential candidates in Afghanistan`s disputed polls to maintain calm and threatened to cut-off American aid if "extra-constitutional" steps are taken.

Obama made a phone call to Abdullah Abdullah Monday night and then followed it up with a call yesterday to Abdullah`s rival Ashraf Ghani.

Obama`s intervention came after Abdullah claimed victory in Afghanistan`s disputed election, blaming fraud for putting him behind in preliminary results as fears of instability and ethnic unrest mounted.

"He (Obama) reiterated that all parties should avoid steps that undermine Afghan national unity and should come together to work toward a resolution that represents the will of the Afghan people and produces a government that can bring Afghanistan together," the White House said in a readout of the phone calls made by Obama to Ghani and Abdullah.

Obama warned of severe consequences if any of the presidential candidates resorted to violence or extra constitutional measures.

"He (Obama) also noted that there is no justification for resorting to violent or extra-constitutional means, which would result in the end of US assistance to Afghanistan," the White House said.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins have been working overtime to resolve the political crisis amidst serious allegations of large scale electoral fraud by the supporters of Abdullah who have called for forming a parallel government.

"The President spoke with Afghan presidential candidates Dr Ashraf Ghani this afternoon and Dr Abdullah Abdullah last night as part of our ongoing efforts to call for calm and emphasise the need for political dialogue as last month`s election results are tabulated. With both, the President stressed that the United States expects a thorough review of all reasonable allegations of fraud to ensure a credible electoral process," the White House said.

Serious allegations of fraud have been raised, but they are yet to be adequately investigated, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

"So we reiterate that the preliminary results that were announced yesterday are neither final, nor authoritative, and may not even predict the final outcome, which could still change based on the findings of Afghan`s electoral bodies. We continue to urge the candidates to maintain calm among their supporters," he said.

"There is a process in place for adjudicating the concerns that have been raised about fraud in that election, and we`re encouraging both candidates and their supporters to allow that process to work its way through so that all of these claims or concerns that have been raised about fraud can be examined and adjudicated so that both sides can respect the outcome of this process," Earnest said.

The United States is calling on both campaigns and their supporters to work towards a resolution which will produce a president who can bring Afghanistan together and govern effectively and avoid steps that undermine Afghan national unity, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

"Clearly our engagement shows our level of commitment to not just the future of Afghanistan, but to a resolution to this issue," she said.

Psaki insisted that the electoral commission and the complaints commission need to examine all of the allegations of fraud.

"There are serious allegations. They need to be looked into. There needs to be a review of all the ballots that may or may not be legitimate," she said.

"The candidates and their supporters need to be in conversations with each other about the formation of a government of national unity and a government that includes all of the relevant parties and important groups, and we feel both of those steps are important moving forward," Psaki said.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appeared before a key Congressional committee to brief them on the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The briefing was a closed door affair.

The Pentagon acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan is complex and complicated.

"There are complications. We`re certainly monitoring that and watching that and encouraging both candidates to let the process continue. It doesn`t do anybody any good to threaten violence. We want to get a complete audit of the votes, the second round returns before any kind of formal announcement is made one way or the other," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

"We`re not picking sides here. The only side that we`re on is the side of the Afghan people. And I think we just need to keep focused on that. And there`s absolutely no change in our commitment to the peaceful, stable future of Afghanistan," Kirby said.