fox-oct-20-09-Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells reporters aboard his plane to Tokyo that the administration cannot "sit on our hands" with regard to troop levels in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that the Obama administration cannot wait for the Afghan election to be resolved before making a decision on troop levels, appearing to be at odds with White House officials who have tied a decision on U.S. strategy to the resolution of the election and political stability.
Gates suggested the election would not have an immediate impact on the overall situation in the country.
He told reporters aboard his plane to Tokyo that the administration cannot "sit on our hands."
The comments come after Afghanistan's election commission ordered a runoff Nov. 7, following an inquiry that found thousands of ballots were fraudulent. President Hamid Karzai accepted the decision.
But White House officials, as well as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., have suggested that U.S. strategy toward Afghanistan is contingent on political stability.
"Quite frankly, I think any credible person in this country would make a case that all the troops in the world will not solve a problem without a partner that is there ultimately to help," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. "None of this is going to work without credible partners."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said over the weekend that it would be "reckless" to make a decision on troop levels without doing a "thorough analysis" of whether the U.S. has a "true partner in governing."
And Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, bluntly said it would be "irresponsible" to commit more troops before the election is resolved.
These comments drew widespread criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress Monday. They said a runoff is important, but that U.S. military strategy is not dependent on who's leading the country.
Obama on Tuesday praised Karzai's decision to accept the runoff.
"President Karzai's constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan's new democracy," Obama said. "The Afghan Constitution and laws are strengthened by President Karzai's decision, which is in the best interests of the Afghan people."
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