The White House is extremely grateful Senator John Kerry (D-MA) was able to help persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election in his country, but Senator Kerry says it wasn’t all his doing.
At the White House Wednesday, Kerry had a private meeting with President Obama, but spoke to reporters afterwards about his role in the negotiations, making sure to highlight that he had the full support of Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
“ I did not take steps in any freelancing way. I was in touch with Secretary Clinton constantly,” Kerry told reporters. “She encouraged me to stay at it, and I think we worked as an effective team.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Kerry was instrumental in the negotiations because he happened to be in the region at the time. But that did not stop many from wondering if the White House has some sort of plan to move Kerry into some elevated position in the future. Kerry said it was just a matter of circumstance, and that his years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee enabled him to help the Obama White House. “It was frankly lucky that I planned a fact-finding mission,” Kerry said.
The Afghan election, held in August, is still unresolved due to a number of issues, a primary one being that neither of the front runner candidates won over 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off. There have been rumors of widespread fraud by Karzai, including the stuffing of ballot boxes, which has also prevented a certification of the election. At the same time, President Obama is currently deciding on a course of military action within the country, and Kerry said the President is moving at the right pace.
“What I learned in Afghanistan and Pakistan is that the President is absolutely correct to take this time to let events unfold,” Kerry said. “I personally don’t believe strategy is defined merely by numbers of troops, strategy is focused on our ability to have Afghans defend themselves.”
For his part, Kerry appeared to be a successful diplomat, assuring those in Kabul the United States has no interest in “calling the shots” in Afghanistan.