Kerry’s interference stirs up angry reaction

Critics say Afghanistan’s rulers should be more proactive instead of relying on US

Tahir Khan April 15, 2016

ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement in Kabul on April 9 in which he said the Afghan government was valid for a five-year term triggered disapproval from critics. It was seen by some observers as foreign interference in internal affairs.

Although Kerry’s observations about the government’s tenure were seen by the two-headed administration as a sigh of relief, a vast majority in the war-torn country was upset over the fact that American officials leapt to the rescue of the rulers.

Afghans want the government to show political wisdom and settle differences rather than seek US intervention.

On Thursday, former president Hamid Karzai also dubbed Kerry’s comments a “clear violation of national sovereignty and the Constitution of Afghanistan.” He was speaking at a seminar on renowned poet Khushal Khan Khattak.

Kerry’s diplomacy

Kerry paid an unannounced visit to Afghanistan amid heated debate that the National Unity government will lose its validity in the coming months as it was earlier believed the administration was installed for two years. The US secretary of state brokered the power-sharing formula between President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah in September 2014 after months of political wrangling.

He also reviewed the progress on the implementation of the bilateral security agreement (BSA) which legalised a longer stay of US troops in Afghanistan.

Afghans are divided over the results of the BSA as some believe it has not ensured security in the country as the Taliban continue to wage war.

“Let me make this very, very clear, because I brokered the agreement. This is an agreement for a unity government the duration of which is five years,” Kerry clarified at a press conference after meeting Ghani. He quashed rumours about the fate of the government.

Keeping Afghanistan intact

There is a general impression in Afghanistan the Parliament and government will be facing questions of legitimacy and the government could move towards a political collapse.

Even with the deep mistrust between Ghani and Abdullah, Afghans believe America and its western allies would never allow the government to collapse as a political crisis could only benefit the Taliban who started a new “fighting season”. This was weeks after the Taliban rejected much-anticipated peace negotiations.

Political opponents insist under the Kerry-brokered deal, a Loya Jirga or grand assembly should be organised within two years and with an amendment to the Constitution of Afghanistan. They suggested the office of the chief executive should be changed to that of the prime minister.

The Ghani-Abdullah agreement states that “A Loya Jirga will be convened within two years to weigh up the position of prime minister. The president is bound to call the Loya Jirga to amend the constitution and create the post of prime minister.”

Parliamentary elections

Questions were also raised over whether the regime in Kabul would be able to hold parliamentary elections within six months. The elections were delayed last year because of the leaders’ disagreement over electoral reforms and are now scheduled for October.

The elections could pave the way for the Loya Jirga; however, many believe there are few hopes for polls as the president and chief executive have yet to agree on electoral reforms.

In spite of general disapproval over Kerry’s involvement in Afghanistan’s affairs, Abdullah rejected the criticism and advised political opponents to read the text of the agreement. He was speaking at the council of ministers this week where he said the remarks of some political leaders had surprised him.

Abdullah’s statement also incurred the ire of political leaders, analysts. A section of the media argued the creation of the office of the chief executive was a contradiction of the Constitution and was imposed on the people under a political agreement.

The media in general showed disappointment at Kerry’s intervention and said his initiative will not convince Afghans who will not take to a form of governance imposed on them.

“People in Afghanistan would like a government that abides by laws and norms. This government, in fact, challenges the constitution. No one, including John Kerry, can inflict governments on Afghanistan,” the newspaper Sarnavesht said in its editorial comments on Kerry’s visit.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th,  2016.

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