Afghan presidential rivals sign unity deal after long dispute

Published: September 21, 2014
Abdullah Abdullah (R) and Ashraf Ghani (L) had both claimed victory in the Afghan elections. PHOTO: AFP

Abdullah Abdullah (R) and Ashraf Ghani (L) had both claimed victory in the Afghan elections. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: KABUL: Afghanistan’s presidential rivals signed a power-sharing deal on Sunday, ending a prolonged standoff over disputed election results at a pivotal moment in the war-weary nation’s history.

Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, who is set to become president when official results are released later in the day, embraced Abdullah Abdullah briefly at a low-key ceremony in the presidential palace that lasted less than 10 minutes.

The deal broke a three-month deadlock over allegations of massive electoral fraud that plunged Afghanistan into crisis as US-led troops end their 13-year war against the Taliban.

Both Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah claimed to have won the vote, but Ghani is widely reported to have come out ahead after the UN-supervised audit of all eight million ballot papers.

Under Sunday’s deal, Abdullah will nominate his choice for the new post of “chief executive officer” (CEO), which will be similar to prime minister – setting up a tricky balance of power as Afghanistan enters a new era.

“I’m happy that our brothers Dr Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah struck an Afghani deal for the sake of goodness and prosperity of the country,” outgoing President Hamid Karzai said in a short speech after the signing.

“I hope with their efforts this country gets long-lasting peace.”

Neither candidate spoke at the ceremony, and it remained uncertain when they would address the nation or when the agreement would be officially published.

Under the constitution the president wields almost total control, and the new government structure will face a major test as the security and economic outlook worsens.

The vote count has been plagued by setbacks amid allegations of massive fraud, emboldening the Taliban insurgents and further weakening the aid-dependent economy.

As tensions rose in Kabul, the United Nations and United States pushed hard for a “national unity government” to avoid a return to the ethnic divisions of the 1990s civil war.

The ruling coalition between opposing camps is likely to be uneasy after a bitter election that revived some of the ethnic rivalries of the civil war, which ended with the Taliban taking power in Kabul in 1996.

Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, draws his support from Tajiks and other northern ethnic groups. Ghani, an ex-World Bank economist, is backed by Pashtun tribes of the south and east.

“There will be two powers in the government, and it will be very difficult for them to work together,” Sediq Mansoor Ansari, an analyst and director of the Civil Societies Federation, told AFP.

“I think the people of Afghanistan will wonder about their votes, and how their votes have been played with.”

The future of Afghanistan’s relationship with the US-led NATO alliance will also be high on the agenda after Karzai refused to sign a security pact with Washington to ensure a foreign military presence after this year.

The White House welcomed Sunday’s deal, which it said “helps bring closure to Afghanistan’s political crisis”.

“We look forward to… the conclusion of the Bilateral Security Agreement,” it added in a statement.

According to a copy of the unity government document seen by AFP, the CEO could become the official “executive prime minister” in two years’ time – a major change to the way Afghanistan has been ruled since 2001.

Abdullah may take up the CEO role, but is thought likely instead to nominate an ally.

Dividing up other official posts could also create friction after the long and mercurial reign of Karzai, who built up a nationwide network of patronage.

The UN’s country director Jan Kubis welcomed the breakthrough, but warned that “for the sake of the country, it is time to quickly implement the agreement”.

After the June run-off election was engulfed in fraud allegations, the US brokered a deal in which the two candidates agreed to abide by the outcome of the audit and then form a national unity government.

But Abdullah later abandoned the audit, saying it was failing to clean out fraud. He won April’s first round, only to see Ghani come from well behind and win in June.

The new administration will have to stabilise the economy as international aid falls, and deal with worsening unrest.

About 41,000 NATO troops remain in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 150,000 in 2010, fighting alongside Afghan soldiers and police against the fierce Taliban insurgency.

NATO’s combat mission will end in December, with a follow-on force of about 12,000 troops likely to stay into 2015 on training and support duties.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Sep 21, 2014 - 8:34AM

    Its shame that Afghans have shown more sense. Let’s pray that Imran and Fake revolutionary thug should also show some sense and leave Islamabad.Recommend

  • king
    Sep 21, 2014 - 8:50AM

    Wow..great cards played by US..i am afraid it’s only going to benefit US and their personal lives..


  • Raj - USA
    Sep 21, 2014 - 10:49AM

    As long as it does not end up like Pakistan’s NRO and both Afghans work together for the betterment of their country, it is good for all.


  • Joe
    Sep 21, 2014 - 11:06AM

    Good . Allow Indian and Chinese entrepreneur , get prosperous and break Pakistan clutches


  • M@NI
    Sep 21, 2014 - 11:25AM

    They are less democratic, but has shown more will power to remain democratic!


  • Ali S
    Sep 21, 2014 - 12:21PM

    CEO of a country? And we complain about Pakistan being run like a personal business enterprise by the Sharifs


  • kakar
    Sep 21, 2014 - 1:33PM

    Ethnic and geographical divission of land of Afghan is the dream of super stra States actor’s . therefore consensus among Afghan politicians is need of timeRecommend

  • Happy
    Sep 21, 2014 - 2:37PM


    Political stability

    $100bn of USAID

    ISAF Mission completed.

    NOW can we please repatriate the 3m Afghans roaming around Pakistan!!!!


  • incognito
    Sep 21, 2014 - 3:05PM

    they are more sensible than our egoistic and idiosyncratic politicos. wish them good luck.


  • Truth Detector
    Sep 21, 2014 - 4:10PM

    Good . Allow Indian and Chinese entrepreneur , get prosperous and break Pakistan clutches

    Yes & dig a deep subterranean tunnel to move trade goods to & from Afghanistan. It is so easy get overhyped. Wait and see, my guess is this deal will fall apart in 6-12 months.


  • romeo
    Sep 21, 2014 - 6:05PM

    In fact this is international game to india to play proxy war from Afghanistan in Pakistan. It will remain a dream.انشاءاللہ@Joe:


  • dawn
    Sep 21, 2014 - 7:03PM

    As a Pakistani, happy for Indian and Chinese investors to invest in Afghanistan.

    NOT happy with Indian agents using Afghans to bomb and terrorise Pakistan.

    Would India and China (or Iran for that matter) be prepared to take th 3m Afghans running around Pakistan?


  • Deepwater
    Sep 21, 2014 - 7:35PM

    I seems to me that Afghani leaders care more for their country than Pakistani ones. Pakistani leaders seem to care more about their personal fiefdoms, wealth and gigantic egos. Additionally, military is not (yet) a part of Afghani politics.


  • Raj - USA
    Sep 21, 2014 - 8:14PM

    @Ali S:
    “CEO of a country? And we complain about Pakistan being run like a personal business enterprise by the Sharifs”
    Musharraf held three official titles simultaneously. He was The President, The Chief Executive and also The Chief of Army Staff.


  • Ranjha
    Sep 21, 2014 - 8:47PM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:

    You may have been away at the parliamentary session so may have missed the news. The deal in Aghanistan was reached after EVERY single vote was recounted. Open the voting bags!


  • Afghan Maihan
    Sep 22, 2014 - 12:23AM

    @ Truth Detector

    Nothing is going to fall apart especially when benefactors are involved. We don’t need to dig tunnels because the ports in Chabahar and Turkmenbashi are already being used by Afghanistan to facilitate trade and commerce as an alternative to Karachi. Karachi will still play a role but a diminishing one.

    The rapprochement between Iran and the West will only enhance Afghanistan’s position as a strategic corridor to landlocked Central Asia and as a hub for the Silk Road Initiative.

    Sociopolitical dynamics are changing in the region and Afghanistan is in step with this dynamic. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is an intellectual with the credentials to lead Afghanistan into becoming a progressive and developed nation. Congratulations to all Afghans for demonstrating political maturity and moving beyond power politics. Tal di we Afghanistan. Maihanem shad baad.


  • Had enough
    Sep 22, 2014 - 1:53AM

    @Afghan Maihan:

    Thats the best news I have heard. Let Iran deal with Afghani smuggling under the Afghan Free Transit Agreement. This Agreement should be cancelled immediately and you can strike a new one with Iran,

    Now, can you please also make a home for your 3m Afghani compatriots to share the fruits of your Indian sponsored prosperity?

    We have been honored to host our Afghani brothers for over 30 years; we wish we could have done more for them, we did as much as our resources would allow, but we would be happy for them to now return to your joyous Afghani future.


  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Sep 28, 2014 - 3:06PM

    It is a good news , Both parties have signed the deal to for the peace and prosperity of the Afghanistan . India and China will help them for reconstruction of the war raveged country and to act as a buffer zone .


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