US Said to Press Secret Afghan Election Deal

Holbrooke allegedly talked to candidate about dropping out
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2009 8:04 AM CDT
Hamid Karzai shakes hands with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the new Secretary General of NATO, in Kabul on Wednesday Aug.5, 2009.   ( AP Photo /Massoud Hossaini, pool)
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(Newser) – With two weeks to go before the Afghanistan election, President Hamid Karzai is trying to cut a deal with a fellow Pashtun to help knock his main challenger out of the race. The Independent reports that American envoy Richard Holbrooke and the US ambassador have pushed for the deal, which would see the candidate polling in third drop out and be rewarded with a new job similar to prime minister. The embassy denies any interference.

Karzai is facing an unexpectedly tough challenge from Abdullah Abdullah, whose supporters have threatened an Iranian-style protest—but "with Kalashnikovs"—if their man loses. Foreign diplomats are caught in a bind ahead of the election: While they want to avoid any appearance of meddling, they're also desperate to prevent the poll from devolving into violence. "It makes sense," said one analyst. "Holbrooke has come round to the fact that Karzai will probably win."