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Afghans Await Troop Plan, Election Result

Wednesday marks the 8th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy reports it is a crucial time for the war-ravaged country.

Not only is the country waiting to hear if President Obama will further increase America's troop presence, but Afghans are also waiting to learn the final results of their disputed presidential elections - held seven weeks ago.

In yet another reminder of what's on the line in Afghanistan, more coffins bearing the remains of slain U.S. troops were carried off a military plane at Dover Air Force Base Tuesday, as 68,000 of their comrades kept up the fight against the Taliban.

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Since 2001, 869 Americans have been killed. Already, 2009 has been the deadliest year since the war began.

Over the past six months, Taliban fighters have advanced into areas across the country once thought secure. The top U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has said publicly that he urgently needs more troops or the battle will be lost.

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Most importantly, Afghans still don't know whether incumbent President Hamid Karzai will be declared winner with more than 50 percent of the votes from the elections on August 20, or if there will be a runoff against his closest rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

Karzai has rejected allegations that his campaign organized stuffing of ballot boxes, and has called for calm.

"It is in the interest of our friends in the West to have a stable Afghanistan, a united Afghanistan," said Karzai recently.

Dr. Abdullah, however, claims that fraud in the vote reflects a systemic culture of corruption in the government.

"We see that... the gap is growing between the government and the people - that's because of corruption," said Abdullah.

Senior government officials have been accused of involvement in heroin smuggling, real estate swindles and diversion of aid money, while little has been done to alleviate poverty in the countryside - a failure the Taliban has been quick to exploit.

Election officials are due to announce the results of the vote by the end of next week, but whatever they say, the appearance of fraud has already done much damage to the image of the government here.

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