Afghan Political Deal Falling Apart?


It was just about two weeks ago that the various political faction in Afghanistan seemingly resolved the crisis that had developed in the wake of a Presidential election that was clouded in allegations of fraud with a political deal that would result in changes to the way Afghanistan’s government works. Now, though, it appears that the political divisions at the heart of the problem are making it tough to move forward:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The political agreement between Afghanistan’s two rival presidential candidates brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago appeared in trouble on Friday as serious differences emerged between the camps.

The two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, failed to reach agreement Friday on the technical details of the audit of the presidential runoff election held last month, although negotiations were continuing. And the deal to form a national unity government, whoever is declared the winner of the election, has met with resistance.

The idea of a unity government, long supported by Afghanistan’s minority groups, was introduced by Mr. Kerry as anger was growing among Mr. Abdullah’s supporters at perceived electoral fraud and as dangerous ethnic and regional divisions threatened to shatter Afghanistan’s fragile democratic process.

Muhammad Mohaqeq, one of Mr. Abdullah’s vice-presidential running mates, accused the Ghani campaign Thursday evening of reneging on the two-part agreement brokered by Mr. Kerry.

“The opposite party has dragged their feet since the day of agreement,” Mr. Mohaqeq told a small group of journalists invited to his home. “They have disagreed on several occasions with the auditing process, stepped out of the process a few times, and created a rumpus as well. After the discussion with their own team members, they have decided not to sign the technical and political agreements.”

“If they do not sign the agreement,” he said, “I think they will lead the process to a deadlock, and we might once again observe a crisis.”

Asked if the breakdown would lead to violence, he said he prayed not.

A spokesman for the Ghani campaign, Faizullah Zaki, denied that his side was rejecting the agreements. Mr. Zaki told journalists that his camp was still committed to the political agreement and was waiting for the technical proposal from the Independent Election Commission.

“We are not delaying anything,” he said. “Reaching an agreement on such a crucial issue like the formation of a national government, which has never had a place in our political system in the past, requires a lot of negotiation. And finding answers to a series of questions again requires time.”

But fundamental differences were emerging between the two camps over forming a national unity government.

In a speech Friday, Ahmad Zia Massoud, a former vice president who joined Mr. Ghani’s campaign before the runoff election, rejected the political framework as agreed to with Mr. Kerry. Under the agreement, whoever wins the election becomes president and creates, by decree, a new post of chief executive or prime minister, with the nominee chosen by the losing candidate. The division of powers has yet to be worked out.

Mr. Massoud said any future government should be evenly balanced between Afghanistan’s ethnic groups, but he also advocated a winner-takes-all election. “We have to understand that a government of a national unity doesn’t mean share of the power in the government,” he said. “The team who wins formulates the government, and the loser basically forms a strong opposition.”

Whether this is a temporary setback or something or permanent is something that only time will tell, of course, but at the moment things are not looking good.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    The mistake we make here is when we think of Afghanistan as a country in the way we define a country. Afghanistan has always been a collection of tribes and the tribal leaders(warlords) have always been the real power. The government in Kabul has never really controlled much but Kabul itself. To pretend that it can become a western style democracy is nothing shot of delusional.

  2. Robin Cohen says:

    I resent paying John Kerry to spend most of his time refereeing ignorant crybabies.
    If this is now his main job, let the useless UN pay his salary.