Interview With TOLO News

James F. Dobbins
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Washington, DC
July 8, 2014

TOLO: Mr. Abdullah states that Secretary Kerry will travel to Kabul on Friday. What are we expecting from this trip? What is he going to exactly do?

Ambassador Dobbins: I think he’s going to try to sit down with both of the candidates and get the electoral process back on track. I think there are two things that need to be done. The first is to begin a process of thoroughly examining all of the ballots and eliminating those that are based on fraud in order to determine a legitimate election result. The second is to encourage a dialogue between the two candidates and their supporters in order to ensure that the resulting government is broadly based and represents the nation as a whole.

TOLO: So he’s going to come to Kabul and sit with the candidates, and he would be here until there is a way out of the current crisis. Is that what you’re trying to say?

Ambassador Dobbins: I’m not suggesting that he’s going to stay there indefinitely. I think he will spend time to try to get the process back on track. But I don’t want to create a false expectation that he’s coming for an open-ended negotiation that could last for days and weeks.

TOLO: Do you think that there is a possibility for the elections to be resolved through the current process, or, because you talked about, you know, another election that could happen, another runoff. Is that something that Washington is considering?

Ambassador Dobbins: No. We don’t think another election is a realistic option. It would take too long to organize. The last election took several years to organize. It would put too much of a burden on the country.

The people have already voted once and it’s unreasonable to ask them to vote again.

TOLO: President Obama has apparently talked to Dr. Abdullah. What exactly the President said to the candidate which convinced Dr. Abdullah not to announce a parallel government today?

Ambassador Dobbins: Well I think President Obama and Secretary Kerry have both been very clear that the United States and its allies and partners are not going to be able to support a divided Afghanistan. That the results of such a division would be a cessation of American and international financial, economic and military support. The consequences of this would be quite grave.

As I think is generally known, about two-thirds of the Afghan government’s budget comes from international donors. About 90 percent of the security budget comes from international donors. So the consequences of a division in Afghanistan and a cessation of international support would mean that the police would stop getting paid, the military would stop getting paid, clinics would close, schools would close, electricity would begin to go off. Very soon the great progress that Afghanistan has made over the last 13 years would begin to roll back.

Now clearly, nobody wants that. Clearly, those millions of voters who went to the polls were voting for something very different. They were voting for a continuity of Afghan’s social and economic process. They were voting for an Afghanistan that was democratic and closely linked to the international community. An Afghanistan that could continue to make progress in all of the fields I’ve suggested. An Afghanistan that would continue to get support from the United States and from its partners for many years to come. That’s the Afghanistan that we will want to see and that Secretary Kerry will be trying to ensure is the future.

TOLO: A question, Mr. Ambassador, is Washington convinced that there was an intentional scaled fraud in the run-off elections?

Ambassador Dobbins: I think Washington is convinced, as are both of the candidates, that there was very substantial fraud. Both of the candidates have agreed to substantial auditing of many million ballots. We think it was unfortunate that a preliminary result was announced before that process was completed. We don’t know what the results of that process will be. It would be premature for either candidate to declare themselves the winner. That’s something that can only be determined at the end of a very robust and transparent process of examining the existing ballots and discarding those that are based on fraud.

TOLO: Very quickly, were you satisfied with Abdullah’s statement today? Or that was discouraging?

Ambassador Dobbins: I think we were satisfied that there was not a move to divide the country and to proclaim a parallel presidency, but it does seem to be a continuing danger and one that would have the most negative consequences for all Afghans.

TOLO: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you for your time.