Afghan election workers on Thursday began auditing the votes cast in last month’s presidential election runoff, monitored by American and United Nations observers. The audit of almost eight million ballots cast in the June 14 runoff was part of a deal brokered last weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry to ease a dispute between the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, that had threatened to fracture Afghanistan’s government only months before the NATO-led combat mission here is to formally end. Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani also agreed to enact broad changes to Afghanistan’s system of government in the coming years. But first the audit must determine who will actually be Afghanistan’s next president. It is a huge undertaking that is expected to take three to six weeks and, officials cautioned, run into snags along the way.
Increasing the international presence here to handle the large volume of votes to be audited has proved a challenge. Many of the roughly 30 foreign observers who took part in Thursday’s initial auditing session were United Nations officials and American development experts who had been pulled off other projects. An additional 70 observers are being flown in from Europe and the United States, and they should be in place by next week, officials said. The American-led military coalition is flying ballot boxes from across Afghanistan to Kabul so they can be audited.