October 20th, 2009
08:30 PM ET

Behind-the-scenes: Kerry’s Shuttle Diplomacy

Sen. John Kerry, left, coordinated his discussions with President Hamid Karzai with Washington, sources say.

Sen. John Kerry, left, coordinated his discussions with President Hamid Karzai with Washington, sources say.

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

- When Senator John Kerry arrived in Kabul Friday on a long scheduled visit he was told by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry that there was a crisis brewing with President Karzai over the election. The concern was that Karzai was going to denounce the preliminary results based on the Election Complaint Commission’s audit showing that Karzai received less than 50 percent of the vote after fraudulent ballots were discounted. The Ambassador was worried that Karzai's declaration would throw the country into an extended period of uncertainty and severely complicate US efforts in Afghanistan.

- After having dinner with U.S. troops, at the request of Ambassador Eikenberry, Senator Kerry made an unplanned visit to the palace to meet with President Karzai, which lasted for several hours. The two men agreed that Kerry would return to the palace to see Karzai on early Saturday afternoon, at which point Senator Kerry cut short a trip to Jalalabad.

- Saturday morning, Senator Kerry met with Karzai’s chief rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

- Kerry later returned to the palace to see President Karzai. The meeting lasted for about two hours, during which Kerry heard Karzai's concerns that the election had been unfairly taken away from him and that 1.3 million Pashtuns (the number of disqualified ballots) had been disenfranchised. The two men discussed Senator Kerry’s own political experience with a failed presidential bid, which helped to build a rapport between the two men.

- Later that night Senator Kerry returned to the palace for five hours. The meeting started in a conference room with cabinet members and election experts to discuss methodology for discounting ballots. UN envoy Kai Eide was present, along election officials from the Election Complaints Commission. That was followed by dinner, where more experts from both the ECC and the International Election Commission were brought in to discuss technical aspects of the process.

- After dinner adjourned, Kerry went into a smaller meeting with Karzai during which they agreed to bring the experts back the following morning for further analysis of disputed ballots.

- Throughout the process Senator Kerry was consulting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

- During additional meetings on Sunday, Senator Kerry did not find President Karzai in a positive frame of mind. Karzai surprised Kerry and Eikenberry by bringing his own election officials to dinner. The meeting was delayed while the officials from the Election Complaints Commission were summoned. During the break, Kerry met privately with Karzai. The meeting ended with progress but without resolution.

- After a trip to Pakistan to meet with General David Petraeus, Senator Kerry postponed plans to return home to DC and returned to Kabul to help finalize the deal, arriving at about 5 p.m. and going straight to palace for further negotiations.

- After about two hours, it appeared that a tentative agreement had been reached with Karzai to accept a runoff. An announcement was scheduled for early Tuesday afternoon.

- When Kerry returned to the palace at noon the press conference was substantially delayed. Kerry and Ambassador Eikenberry worked with Karzai to resolve last minute issues related to certification.

- It took close to five hours to finalize the deal. Kerry took a long walk alone with Karzai around the palace, stopping at a mosque where Karzai goes to clear his head.

- At 4:50 pm the news conference began with Senator Kerry standing by President Karzai’s side.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Elise Labott
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