August 20, 2009 / 6:27 PM / 11 years ago

Obama says Afghanistan poll a success

(Updates with Obama comments)

WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday the Afghanistan election appeared to have been a success, despite what he said were the efforts of Taliban militants to disrupt it.

The election was a test for Obama’s new strategy aimed at reversing Taliban gains. U.S. combat casualties have risen amid a U.S. troop buildup, and opinion polls have shown weakening American public support for the war.

The White House said Afghans had turned out to vote in large numbers despite threats of violence, and U.S. policy in the 8-year-old war would not change in the aftermath of Afghanistan’s presidential election.

"We had what appears to be a successful election in Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s efforts to disrupt it," Obama told a radio talk show host in a live broadcast from the White House.

There were only sporadic attacks in the country as millions of Afghans went to the polls to choose a president in the midst of an intensifying U.S.-led fight against a resurgent Taliban.

"We have to focus on finishing the job in Afghanistan but it is going to take some time," Obama said.

U.N. and U.S. officials described voter turnout as robust in the north but weaker in the violent south of Afghanistan.

Asked about spotty voter turnout in some places, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "Different regions of the country have experienced different turnout rates.

"I don’t see any reason, though, to believe that (spotty turnout) changes our policy going forward in terms of our aggressive goals ... to disrupt and ultimately defeat al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. We’ll continue to monitor and wait for those official results, which we know will be some time in coming." (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Ross Colvin, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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