The Obama administration is clarifying remarks by James Dobbins, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, that appeared to suggest Washington wants Afghanistan's feuding presidential candidates to form a unity government.
Bloomberg on July 9 quoted Dobbins as saying that "a government of national unity that includes all elements" in Afghanistan is "a necessity for a successful government."
He also told a conference at the Washington-based Asia Society that "a winner-take-all system in Afghanistan is not a workable" option.
But U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on July 10 said, "It is for the next president of Afghanistan to determine the composition of the government."
Psaki added that "the United States government wants to see a unified Afghanistan and wants to bring unity to the people of Afghanistan."
She said the next government "will need to be broad-based and inclusive to lead to a unified Afghanistan."
Washington, Psaki said, was "encouraging a range of steps in the process" to "get closer to that conclusion."
The remarks come one day ahead of a visit to Kabul by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who plans to meet with and discuss the election crisis with both candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.
The two are quarreling over who is ahead in the vote count following an announcement of preliminary results on July 7 that showed Ghani ahead by about 1 million votes.
But Abdullah has claimed victory, saying the initial vote count was tainted by fraud.
A total of 8 million votes were counted and as many as 3 million ballots could be challenged in a an official review by electoral officials.
Kerry on June 10 said Washington had "enormous concerns" for the restoration of the credibility of the elections process in Afghanistan.
Speaking during a visit to Beijing, Kerry told reporters that both of Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates must show statesmanship and leadership at a critical time.
He said the United States hoped "very much" over the course of the next few days that a way forward can be found to resolve the dispute.
Kerry also urged Abdullah and Ghani not to raise the expectations of their supporters.
U.S. President Barack Obama told both candidates in telephone calls earlier this week that any "violent or extra-constitutional measures" over the vote fraud allegations would "cost Afghanistan the financial and security assistance of the United States."