Kerry: Afghan Election Affects U.S. Plan

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on "Face the Nation"
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on "Face the Nation," October 18, 2009.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CBS News that President Obama's highly-anticipated decision on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan hinges on the result of that country's presidential election.

Speaking from Kabul in an interview broadcast on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, "There's some very fundamental questions that have to be answered about the status of the Afghan government.

"I think this is a moment for President [Hamid] Karzai, frankly, to step up and help to share with the world a better vision for how the government here is going to deliver and be a full partner."

Mr. Obama is considering increasing the number of troops in the country, which after Karzai failed to garner enough votes Special Report: Afghanistan

"I don't see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government's going to be," Kerry told John Dickerson, host of's "Washington Unplugged," during the senator's visit to Afghanistan's capital.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan, has requested Mr. Obama send more troops to the country. Kerry spoke with McChrystal during his visit. The senator said winning the war in Afghanistan will rely on more than just sending more soldiers there.

"Counting the numbers of troops is not going to define our success here," Kerry told Dickerson. "There is no military success ultimately to Afghanistan. The Afghans themselves are going to define what happens here and we have to convince ourselves that we have a strategy in place that empowers them to do that and that is realistic in what our expectations are from them and on what schedule."

Success in Afghanistan means making sure the country doesn't revert into a safe haven for al Qaeda, Kerry said.

"We need to deal with the problem of al Qaeda, make sure that they can't have a sanctuary in Afghanistan, and guarantee that we have regional stabilization, in particularly focused on Pakistan," Kerry told Dickerson. "The Afghans themselves will have to deliver, and in whatever they deliver they will create the atmosphere for the civilian sector to be able to deliver. We still have a lot of questions to answer about our capacity to do both of those parts of the mission."

Kerry said the United States can't do it all in Afghanistan and will need widespread support from the Afghan government, no matter who is elected president there.

"What we really need in addition is the government that has the capacity to be able to deliver at a local level as well as do some of the rebuilding of both the national army as well as the police, and then we need a construction, civilian program at a level yet to be determined," Kerry told Dickerson. "I want to know what it's going to take to be able to support the fundamental mission that the president has defined, and I think there are a lot of questions still outstanding about that."

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    Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for