U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says two days of talks in Kabul with Afghanistan’s presidential candidates have led to an agreement on an internationally supervised audit of the ballots.
Speaking late on July 12 beside both presidential candidates and Afghanistan's outgoing President Hamid Karzai, Kerry said all 8 million ballots that were counted by Afghan election officials in a preliminary tally of the June 14 runoff vote will be audited.
He said candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani both agreed on July 12 that they would abide by the results of the audit -- and that whoever is shown to be the winner will “immediately form a government of national unity.”
Kerry said the entire audit is to be conducted in Kabul and will be internationally supervised in the manner proposed by the United Nations.
The audit is to begin on July 13 with ballot boxes from Kabul polling stations.
Ballot boxes from regions outside of Kabul are to be transported by troops from the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Representatives from both candidates’ campaign teams are to be allowed access to the ballot boxes under international supervision.
Kerry said the audit is expected to last weeks -- and asked that Afghan officials postpone a presidential inauguration scheduled for August 2 in order to accommodate the process.
Kerry said fraud allegations have “cast a pall” over what should have been a celebrated, democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan.
He noted that some discrepancies in the vote include allegations of “vote levels above the level of eligible voters” in some Afghan provinces.
Abdullah said the election created "serious challenges."
But he praised Ghani for working toward the accord on the the audit and the unity government.
Ghani returned the compliments, lauding his competitor's patriotism and commitment to a dialogue that promotes national unity.
The preliminary results from the June 14 runoff vote put Ghani in the lead by about 1 million votes -- 56.44 percent of the 8 million ballots that are to be audited.
Abdullah has rejected that result, saying that it was tainted by fraud and represents a "coup" against the people of Afghanistan.
Kerry and Karzai discussed the deal late on July 12. Afterwards, the Afghan leader publicly endorsed the outcome.
Speaking alongside Karzai at the Presidential Palace, Kerry said the democracy springing up in Afghanistan "deserved its full bloom." He offered robust U.S. support to ensure the deal holds.
The UN chief in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, who will direct much of the technical aspects of the audit, delivered strong praise for Kerry.
He said Kerry's work wasn't typical diplomacy but almost a "miracle."