is there a poor loser here?

dueling afghan leaders

both declare

themselves president

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kabul’s political crisis continued to deepen with ashraf ghani and abdullah abdullah both holding rival inaugurations

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by rahim faiez & tameem akhgar
the diplomat
march 10, 2020

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Afghanistan’s rival leaders were each sworn in as president in separate ceremonies on Monday, throwing plans for negotiations with the Taliban into chaos and creating a dilemma for the United States as it figures out how to move its peace deal with the Taliban forward.

The U.S.-Taliban deal signed just over a week ago was touted as Washington’s effort to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan and was seen by many Afghans as the best opportunity yet for bringing an end to relentless wars.

But the sharpening dispute between President Ashraf Ghani, who was declared the winner of last September’s election, and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who charged fraud in the vote along with the elections complaints commission, threatens to wreck the next key steps and even risks devolving into new violence.

The rivals held simultaneous inauguration ceremonies, each packed with his supporters — Ghani’s in the presidential palace and Abdullah’s next door in the Sapedar Palace.

Even as Ghani was winding up his thank you speech, blasts of rocket fire were heard hitting near the presidential palace. “We have seen bigger attacks. Don’t be afraid of just two blasts,” Ghani said, raising his hands and urging rattled participants to stay in their seats. The perpetrators of the fire were not immediately known, but the scene hiked worries that the split will open the door to violence.

In a sign of international support for Ghani, his ceremony — aired on state TV — was attended by Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, General Austin S. Miller, the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as well as a number of foreign dignitaries including the U.S. Embassy’s charge d’affaires and Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. Secretary General’s personal representative to Afghanistan.

At Abdullah’s inauguration, aired on private Tolo TV, among those present were so called “jihadi” commanders, who participated in the brutal civil war of the 1990s and were among those who allied with the U.S.-led coalition to topple the Taliban in 2001.

Both candidates — but particularly Abdullah — are backed by warlords with heavily armed militias, underscoring fears they could use force to back their candidate. The rival claims to be president have the potential to further split and weaken Afghanistan’s fragile institutions, including the military, if they demand their authority be recognized.

When Washington and the Taliban insurgents signed their accord on February 29, the next crucial step was to be intra-Afghan talks in which all factions, including the Taliban, would negotiate a road map for their country’s future. They are looking to hammer out such thorny issues as women’s rights, free speech, and the fate of tens of thousands of armed men on both sides of the 18-year war.

Those negotiations were set to open Tuesday in Oslo, but the political chaos in Kabul makes it a near impossibility. Ghani said he will announce his team Tuesday, though it appears Abdullah may also announce his negotiating team.

At the dueling inaugurations, both men offered their peace plan. Abdullah said he had no preconditions for talks and promised his team would be inclusive, but did not elaborate. Ghani said he understood that another promise of a reduction of violence would come from the Taliban in exchange for the release of their prisoners. There was no comment from the Taliban to this and previously they said their earlier commitment was only for seven days and a ceasefire would be part of negotiations.

The United States has said its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan over an 18-month period provided for in the deal will be linked to the Taliban keeping their counterterrorism promises, but not to the success of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government

Afghanistan’s election commission declared incumbent Ghani as the winner of September’s vote. His former partner in a unity government, chief executive Abdullah, as well as the election complaints commission say the results are fraught with irregularities. As a result, both Ghani and Abdullah declared themselves winners.

The dueling inaugurations took place despite last-minute shuttle diplomacy by Khalilzad, who reportedly went back and forth between the two Afghan rivals into the early hours Monday. He asked both sides to delay their inaugurations three days to sort out the stalemate, a senior member of Abdullah’s team, Basir Salangi, told Tolo TV. Abdullah reportedly said he was ready, but only if Ghani also agreed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, in response to questions from The Associated Press, said late Sunday that the Taliban were still committed to the deal, but said the dueling presidential inaugurations “are not good for the Afghan nation.”

Until now the Taliban have refused to sit with Ghani’s government. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

As well as competing candidates, Khalilzad still has to get some agreement on a prisoner release, which was supposed to be settled before the intra-Afghan negotiations could begin. The U.S.-Taliban deal said 5,000 Taliban prisoners and up to 1,000 captives from the government side would be freed as a goodwill gesture ahead of the talks.

Ghani has said he won’t release the Taliban prisoners, even as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on all sides to stop posturing and free their prisoners, some of whom have already served their sentences. Pompeo called on all sides get on with talks about the country’s future.

The Taliban spokesman told AP that the group wants their prisoners released and were ready to free the captives they’re holding. Mujahed said they did not want to see a delay but reiterated that if it occurred “we remain committed to the agreement.”

In a tweet, Afghanistan’s former deputy foreign minister, Jawed Luddin, thanked Washington for trying to sort out Afghanistan’s political turmoil while calling the squabbling “a mess.”

“Thank you, USA, for trying to sort out our political crisis — yet again. We know you must be sick of it — as are we Afghans,” Luddin said.

“You and us both had a hand in bringing about the mess that is today’s Afghan politics. But I wish we Afghans felt half as responsible for the mess as you do,” he added.

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by rahim faiez and tameem akhgar for the associated press.

ap correspondent kathy gannon contributed from islamabad.

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https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/dueling-afghan-leaders-both-declare-themselves-president

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nato at the podium

~

secretary general jens stoltenberg

nato (afghanistan)

29 feb. 2020

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Remarks

by

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

at a ceremony preceeding the

Joint Declaration

between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

in regards to the signing of an agreement between the United States and

the Taliban

~

President Ghani,
Secretary Esper,
Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
I am honoured to join you here in Kabul.
To mark the start of this new chapter for Afghanistan.
In a statement that we have just released,
all NATO Allies welcome this step towards peace.

The agreements between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
and between the United States and Taliban,
promise to end decades of devastating conflict.
And to pave the way for negotiations among Afghans,
as they begin to build a better future for all.
This is a victory for peace.
And a victory for the Afghan people.
Through their bravery and determination,
and the support of the international community,
Afghanistan is a very different country today than it was in 2001.
It is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists.
Terrorists who conducted the attacks against the United States,
and threatened people across the globe.
The security we have helped the Afghan forces to build has underpinned political, economic and social progress.
Child mortality has dropped dramatically.
Life expectancy has increased significantly.
And millions more Afghans are in school, including girls.

Today we see women’s representation at all levels.
And freedom of the press being expressed everyday.
20 years ago all of this would have been unthinkable.
I have seen this transformation,
from despair to hope,
driven by a deep desire for peace,
in the eyes of every Afghan I have met.
From political and military leaders to journalists and artists.
And from special operations forces to female fighter pilots.

The challenge now is to preserve these gains.
The price of peace cannot be to sacrifice progress.
Peace will only be sustainable if the human rights of all Afghans – women, men and children – are protected.
NATO Allies and partners will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Afghanistan.
As we have done since 2001.
Over the years, under the NATO flag, hundreds of thousands of troops from North America, Europe and countries around the whole world have been deployed to Afghanistan.

Thousands of troops from NATO Allies and partners remain in Afghanistan today,
to continue to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces and Afghan institutions.
Over the years we have provided critical funding to support the Afghan security forces.
And we will continue this funding.
Thanks to our training and financial backing, the Afghan security forces have become stronger and more professional.
And we will continue to support them as they build a safer and more secure Afghanistan.

To support this process and to support the peace process,
NATO will reduce its presence in Afghanistan,
step-by-step and conditions-based,
reflecting the progress we see on the ground.
NATO Allies and partners went into Afghanistan together.
We will adjust our presence together.
And when the time is right, we will leave together.
This will only happen when we are sure that the Afghan forces no longer require our support,
and that Afghanistan will never again become a platform for international terrorists.

The path to peace is long and hard.
And there may be setbacks.
We have already paid a high price.
So I pay tribute to those who have served so bravely.
And sacrificed so much.
In particular the Afghan security forces.
And the people of Afghanistan.
Whose strength and determination have laid the foundations for peace.
And I say to the Afghan people,
the international community stands with you.
NATO stands with you.
Now is not the time to waver.
Or to jeopardise the progress made.
The time for peace is now.
So I urge all Afghans to seize this historic moment.
To build a truly inclusive Afghanistan.
And to unite in the pursuit of lasting peace.

~

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_174024.htm?selectedLocale=en

~

ghani wins, opponent claims victory too

PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI WINS A SECOND TERM…

A PARALLEL DECLARATION BY MAIN RIVAL THREATENS A CRISIS…

U.S. AND TALIBAN CONTINUE THE BROKERING OF A PEACE DEAL…

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by mujib mashal, najim rahim, fatima faizi, taimoor shah

the new york times

february 18, 2020

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KABUL, Afghanistan — President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday was declared the winner of Afghanistan’s presidential vote after five months of delayed results and bitter dispute. But the announcement threatened to tip the country into a full-blown political crisis on the cusp of a U.S. peace deal with the Taliban.

Just hours after the announcement, Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah — who accuses Afghanistan’s election commission of favoring the incumbent — also declared himself the winner and said he would form a government of his own.

The dispute over the election result comes just after a breakthrough in the negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, with the two sides arriving at a tightly choreographed peace plan expected to be rolled out in a matter of days. The plan calls first for a test period of “violence reduction,” which would lead to the Taliban and Washington signing a deal. Soon after that, the two Afghan sides would sit down to discuss the political future of the country.

But Western diplomats have long feared that a political crisis in Kabul would weaken the Afghan government’s hand in the negotiations and affect the overall peace plan.

The timing of the election conflict means Mr. Ghani’s government will be challenged, and distracted, during the tight window of days when the details of the “violence reduction” need to be determined.

In a news conference announcing the election result after an audit of about 15 percent of the total vote, the chief of Afghanistan’s election commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani, said that Mr. Ghani had won with the narrowest of margins — 50.64 percent of the vote, just surpassing the 50 percent minimum required for an outright victory with no runoff. Mr. Abdullah received 39.5 percent.

The win puts Mr. Ghani in position for another five-year term as president.

“This is not just an election victory,” Mr. Ghani said, flanked by his running mates, after the result was announced. “This is the victory of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. This is the victory of the people’s wishes.”

Hours later, however, Mr. Abdullah appeared in a televised address surrounded by his own supporters.

“I asked those who believe in democracy, in a healthy future for this country, in citizens’ rights to stand up to fraud and to not accept this fraudulent result,” Mr. Abdullah said. “We are the winners based on clean votes, and we declare our victory. We will form the inclusive government.”

Both candidates spoke from their palaces, where throngs of their supporters had gathered. A narrow road leads to both, with little space separating the two compounds. Late into Tuesday evening, as the supporters of both sides remained inside, the road was tense, overflowing with armored vehicles and the armed guards of both camps.

For Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah, the situation is almost a repeat of five years ago, when both were stuck in another disputed election that went to a runoff. For many ordinary Afghans, it’s a frustrating case of déjà vu.

After Mr. Abdullah led in the first round in 2014, Mr. Ghani came from behind to win in the runoff, leading to Mr. Abdullah rejecting the results. It took John Kerry, then Secretary of State, to broker a power-sharing agreement where Mr. Ghani became president and Mr. Abdullah became the government’s chief executive, with control over a large share of appointments.

The brokered deal deeply hurt the faith in elections of many Afghans, and the turnout for this year’s vote, held in September amid a record number of Taliban attacks intended to destabilize the election, was low.

During their five years sharing power, the two men were frequently at each other’s throats, their bickering often bringing the government to a standstill amid a bloody war that took the lives of about 50,000 Afghan forces in that time.

When they both ran for president again, it raised fears that the country’s institutions — particularly the weary security forces — could be split apart.

The initial results of the vote were delayed by months. When Mr. Ghani was declared in the lead in the preliminary count, Mr. Abdullah and several other candidates disputed about 300,000 votes from the low turnout of about 1.8 million. Among those were 100,000 ballots registered in the system either before or after voting hours — in some cases by weeks or months.

Mr. Abdullah’s supporters say those were fraudulent votes cast in favor of Mr. Ghani. The election commission has attributed the irregularities to human error in setting the time and date of devices that recorded the votes.

The preparations to announce the final results suddenly picked up steam this week as the peace deal became imminent, with many reading it as Mr. Ghani making sure a Taliban deal does not deny him a second term in office.

But many of Mr. Abdullah’s strongest supporters threatened the formation of a parallel government if their grievances — which Mr. Ghani’s team sees as obstructionism so that the opposition can get a share of the power — were not taken into account.

Abdul Rashid Dostum, one of Mr. Abdullah’s main supporters and a powerful strongman who was previously Mr. Ghani’s vice president, said at a recent gathering: “Even if they put a knife on my throat, even if they hang me, I will not accept an announcement based on fraud.”

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The New York Times

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biden sticks his foot in his mouth

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afghanistan times

february 10, 2020

http://www.afghanistantimes.af

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During presidential election inter-partisan debates in the United States, it has become customary for the leading candidates to engage in debates where they table topics for discussion which are often the most controversial issues of the time. A recent instance is of a hardcore democratic politician’s remarks regarding Afghanistan, something that has riled Afghans. Joe Biden, who is a candidate for president in the 2020 US election, while addressing a debate said, “with regards to Afghanistan, I was totally against the whole notion of nation-building. There’s no possibility at all of making it a whole country. But it is possible to see they’re not able to launch more attacks.” Afghan politico and masses have lambasted Biden for such absurd and morally bankrupt notions, and rightly so. Former president Hamid Karzai in a statement called Joe Biden’s remarks on Afghanistan ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unrealistic’ and said ‘it is evident that the US has never sought nation-building in Afghanistan.’ The question here is why does he think like that and remark as such?

It’s mainly because of being a gifted demagogue with particular skill in manipulating the American taxpayers by stating the popular opinion to win the public support in the election. However, he should know that Afghanistan has remained a resilient nation. No country in the world could go through 40 years of back-to-back invasions, interferences, imposed wars and still remain intact. It’s Afghanistan which has remained united despite the war and destruction. Biden scapegoating Afghanistan for its multiethnic trait is just a demagogic move, something usually expected from politicians. Afghanistan has remained a nation-state because we share the same culture despite ethnic disparities, which should be our strength not a weakness. In Afghanistan, nation-building is possible if we have a grassroots-approach and is undoubtedly impossible when it is an external imposition. These remarks should serve as a wake-up call for Afghans to beware of the manipulative designs of some elements who want to divide us along ethnic lines.

Moreover, multiple reports have suggested and many agree that American nation-building efforts have so far failed to establish and sustain democracies in 11 (excluding Afghanistan) countries. And one reason could be the securitization modus operandi used by the US – an extreme version of politicization that enables extraordinary means to be used in the name of security – while providing the posturing and alibi of building our nation. Therefore, such outspoken and revolutionary ideas by the American politician are only aimed at winning public support of Republican-exhausted American voters in the upcoming election. The natural fabric of Afghan society is tightly woven to the extent that despite ethnic dissimilarities, we have remained intact and will remain as such against the consistent foreign interference. Therefore, Biden should drop his maximalist position, which will do him no good, and apologize for his ignorant and irresponsible statement regarding Afghanistan.

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http://www.afghanistantimes.af/editorial-bidens-morally-bankrupt-remarks

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abdullah urges clear election tally

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afghanistan times

february 8, 2020

http://www.afghanistantimes.af

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KABUL: As election authorities are hewing closer to a conclusion and settlement in regard with contested issues surrounding 2019 elections, the incumbent chief executive Abdullah Abdullah urged the commissions to ensure transparency in tabulation and announcement of the election results.

Addressing a press conference in Kabul on Saturday, Dr. Abdullah said announcement of presidential election results will ‘save Afghanistan from the perils of war and the grip of the uncertainty the country is subjected to’.

“Presidential election outcome must be transparent and in line with the law; which would provide a trajectory for the nation through this tumultuous circumstance to democratic, development and cultural progress phase.”

This is as the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, said earlier that Afghans expect their leaders to work together for stabilizing the country until the election outcome.

“As Afghans await election results, they expect the Government of National Unity to focus on stability, security, and the economy. The GNU provides the framework for Afghanistan’s leaders to cooperate and address these challenges inclusively until a new government is formed,” she said in a tweet.

The electoral complaints commission announced Saturday that it had finalized and handed over its final decision about 300,000 controversial ballots to the independent election commission for implementation – despite a three-day delay in its proceedings. Spokeswoman Zarmina Kakar Haqjoo said Saturday that our decisions have been finalized and will be handed over to the election commission in an official letter, “probably by the end of today”.

The decisions pertained to 300,000 controversial votes – according to which, 10% of 137,000 suspicious ballots and 15% of 102,000 belated ballots will be recounted. If the recount ascertains that 65% of the retallied ballots lack validity, all the contests ballots will be invalidated and scrapped. Having biometric information, poll ledger and polling station result sheet are the criteria for ballots to qualify for validation.

Deputy Spokesperson of the Independent Election Commission, Mirza Mohammad Haqparast, has announced the authority’s preparation for implementation of the complaints tribunal’s decisions for recount. “We will begin the conduct of recount as soon as the complaints commission hands over its verdict,” he said.

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https://baztab.news/article/1262458

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