President Obama is now said to have completed his policy review of Afghanistan and now to be moving toward making a decision about whether he will pursue a wide-ranging counter-insurgency strategy that implies substantial investment in state-building (as recommended by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and apparently by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), or whether he will adopt the much more modest counter-terrorism strategy proposed by Vice President Joe Biden. It now seems increasingly likely that there will be a run-off in the Afghanistan presidential contest between incumbent Hamid Karzai and his chief rival Abdullah Abdullah. As fraudulent ballots have been tossed out, Karzai's margin of victory has apparently fallen below the 50% threshold that would have allowed him to avoid a run-off. Since, however, Abdullah Abdullah's support largely comes from the Tajik (Dari Persian-speaking Sunnis) ethnic group, and Karzai's strongest support comes from anti-Taliban Pashtuns, there are fears that the run-off might produce increased ethnic tensions and even violence. On the other hand, had Karzai been declared the victor on the basis of clearly fraudulent ballots, it would have fatally undermined the legitimacy of his government.
The thing about the run-off election is the timing. It has to happen very rapidly before winter shuts down everything. It is not certain that President Karzai will certify the UN election panel's findings, either. President Obama has no good or easy options for his long awaited Afghanistan strategy.