U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raises hands with Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani, left, and Abdullah Abdullah, right, at the United Nations Mission Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 12, 2014, after they told reporters about the details of an agreement on a technical and political plan the Secretary helped broker to resolve the disputed outcome of the election between them. (Flickr/State Department
KABUL, Afghanistan, July 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday during his visit to Kabul that Afghanistan will undertake an audit of the votes cast in the presidential election run-off on June 14.
The audit will determine which candidate succeeds Hamid Karzai. Preliminary election results released show former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani in the lead with 56.44 percent of the vote and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah trailing behind with 43.56 percent.
Abdullah challenged the legitimacy of the election, alleging fraud and questioning the Independent Election Commission's preliminary election results.
Kerry arrived in Kabul on Friday to meet with the candidates regarding the political transition. In a joint press conference, Ghani emphasized Afghanistan's need for "the most intensive and extensive audit possible to restore faith [in the election]."
Abdullah agreed, and on Saturday, Kerry announced that "both candidates have committed to participate in and abide by the results of the largest, most comprehensive possible audit. Every single ballot that was cast will be audited, 100 percent, all eight million. This is the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process and to Afghan democracy."
An unnamed senior U.S. administration official confirmed Monday that the audit began on Sunday. "The first significant part of that was that the IEC, Afghanistan's electoral commission, met most notably with the representatives of both parties, which means that both parties have engaged in the process and have embraced the terms of it."
The next steps, the official said, are logistically intensive. The ballot boxes will be securely transported by ISAF and Afghan national security forces to Kabul. The auditing will be supervised by the United Nations Assistance Mission. The official added that "domestic observers, media, and most notably representatives, and quite significant teams from each candidate" will also be present to ensure the legitimacy of the audit.
Kerry reiterated Saturday that "in keeping with each of the candidates' requests, this audit will be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards."