Afghanistan’s Karzai, UN call for national unity government

afghanpollwikicommonsAfghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that his successor must be chosen soon to “salvage the country,” which appeared to grow more volatile as the day progressed, the Washington Post reports:

In a rare public statement since he has been forced to postpone his departure from office, Karzai addressed hundreds of Afghan leaders gathered in the capital to honor a slain guerrilla commander. Karzai pleaded with the audience to join him in pressuring Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to put aside their differences so they can form a national unity government.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a similar appeal to both of them to work together for a speedy settlement of the political crisis, VOA reports:

In a statement, he noted that in the U.S.-mediated deal in early July, both the candidates agreed to accept the nationwide audit of the presidential runoff results and form a government of national unity. It added that with the main audit completed last week and the announcement of updated results anticipated shortly, the Secretary-General expected the presidential hopefuls to now abide by their commitments to enable Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of power. 

Perhaps the most significant step is to continue encouraging the creation of a national unity government in which the winning candidate integrates key supporters of the loser’s side, notes SethJones, director of the RAND Corporation’s International Security and Defense Policy Center, and author of “In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan.”

This would include appointing supporters to key cabinet posts or provincial governor positions. It might also involve the losing candidate selecting a chief executive officer in a new administration, he writes for the Wall Street Journal:

Most important, the U.S. and other NATO countries need to emphasize that their continued economic and military assistance to Afghanistan is contingent on a resolution of the political crisis. It makes little sense for the U.S. to sign a bilateral security agreement with a country that can’t even agree on its leader.

It would be a tragedy if one or both sides allowed the disputed election to fracture the country and increase the odds of a Taliban military victory—an outcome that neither side wants, and that would harm the Afghan population most of all.


Afghan candidate threatens to withdraw



Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah threatened on Tuesday to withdraw (AFP) from a United Nations-supervised audit of votes cast in the disputed election, potentially undermining a process aimed at rescuing the country’s first democratic transfer of power, according to the Council on Foreign Relations:

The audit was part of a U.S.-brokered deal between presidential candidates Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, both of whom claim election victory in the contest to succeed President Hamid Karzai (Reuters). General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said Monday that the United States had devised plans that would allow U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year if the election stalemate persisted and prevented the signing of a security agreement (AP).


“The best available solution is for Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani to cooperate fully with the ballot audit, accept the results (which were never going to be fraud-free, given the immaturity of the democratic system) and quickly form a functioning government that reflects the country’s diversity. If they manage to do that, there might be some hope that they could, in time, restore voter trust and put Afghanistan on the path to a real democracy,” writes the New York Times.

“More broadly, it isn’t clear that the number of U.S. boots on the ground translates into meaningful political leverage, or is necessarily conducive to an enduring, much less healthy, stability. That doesn’t mean that the U.S. shouldn’t push Ghani and Abdullah to compromise, and continue providing economic support,” writes Bloomberg.

There is also independent evidence of large-scale fraud, mostly on Mr. Ghani’s behalf, the New York Times reports:

The most credible local election observer organization, the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, has submitted 2,684 files of cases of major irregularities and fraud, including blatant ballot stuffing, to the Electoral Complaints Commission. “We have videos of I.E.C. officials doing it for both sides,” said Nader Nadery, the head of the observer group [apartner of the National Endowment for Democracy.]

“Iraq could hardly be a clearer cautionary tale: If the United States withdraws before the Afghan security forces are fully prepared to lead the fight against the Taliban and to deny safe haven to al Qaeda, jihadists are almost certain to regain safe haven there, much as the Islamic State (IS) has gained ground since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. That is what losing the war in Afghanistan looks like,” writes Paul Miller for Foreign Policy.

Afghanistan: UN urges respect for poll audit as process resumes





The process to check thousands of ballot boxes in the Afghan presidential election run-off is now underway after several delays, the United Nations mission in the country confirmed, calling for local commitment to complete the audit without any more postponements, according to reports.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan ( UNAMA ) “urged the full commitment of the parties for the unprecedented and vital endeavour that should be completed without any further delays and interruptions.”

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), under whose authority the audit is being carried out, with international supervision, resumed the process on 3 August, following the Eid holiday, but without the participation of representatives of one of the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah.

Dr. Abdullah’s campaign, the Reform and Partnership Team, rejoined the process today after having sought clarification on the audit, for which the UN has been jointly requested, by the two candidates, to coordinate international supervision.

Meanwhile, more than 200 full-time international observers — hailing from the European Union and including its Election Assessment Team and the American non-governmental organizations National Democratic Institute, Democracy International, as well as Asian Network for Free Elections, are now in auditing warehouses in the capital.


Unrest looms over Afghan vote




Afghan presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory on Tuesday, rejecting preliminary election results that gave his rival, Ashraf Ghani, a lead of a million votes, the Council on Foreign Relations reports:

Abdullah also called on thousands of supporters rallying in Kabul to give him time to plan his next steps and avert a crisis (TOLO). An Abdullah ally and provincial governor called Monday for “widespread civil unrest” and warned of forming a “parallel government,” drawing a swift condemnation from U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, who warned that an extralegal power grab would jeopardize international financial and security support (WSJ). Kerry is expected in Kabul at the end of the week to mediate the crisis (WaPo). Meanwhile, a Taliban suicide bomber killed four NATO troops north of Kabul, as well as twelve civilians and Afghan police (AFP).


Abdullah’s re-engagement in the election process is fundamental to any hope of an outcome to this election which is acceptable to all parties. However, the presence of his observers is also, in a very practical way, crucial to getting an audit that actually scrutinizes the ballots,” writes Kate Clark for the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

“There is pressure on the Afghan government to get this election completed and install a new presidential administration in time to meet the political, economic, and military challenges of the transition period as foreign troops leave. There’s a crucial NATO summit in September, a major meeting of donors in November, and other hurdles that will require a functioning new administration,” International Crisis Group’s Graeme Smith told DeutscheWelle.

“If this moment is decisive, as I suggested, it is because it will determine whether or not Afghan leaders have truly adopted the logic of democracy—as Afghan voters seem to have done—or whether the source of power is ultimately non-institutional, negotiable, the result of behind-the-curtain deals, and permanently dependent on international arbitration,” writes Scott Smith for the Global Observatory.

Afghanistan fraud charges ‘may jeopardize democratic transition’




Afghanistan‘s presidential election has been plunged into crisis after one candidate demanded a halt to vote counting, suspended cooperation with election authorities and called for a UN commission to mediate over “blatant fraud”, The Guardian reports:

It was an unexpectedly strong challenge to an election that had initially been celebrated as a qualified success, with high turnout in both the first round and a 14 June run-off, despite Taliban threats and violence.

Former foreign minister and mujahideen doctor Abdullah Abdullah had already signalled that he was unhappy about preliminary turnout figures for the second round, and wary of large leaps in voter numbers in the strongholds of his rival Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat.

The Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Fahim Naime called on the electoral commissions and presidential candidates not to harm the election process, Deutsche Welle reports.

“We call on the IEC and Abdullah Abdullah to resolve this issue as soon as possible, because as time passes the crisis deepens. If it continues this way, we might reach a point where the commissions won’t be able to resolve these problems,” Naim told DW. He also called on the IEC to take steps in order to restore trust with Abdullah Abdullah.

“In the meantime the candidates should respect the votes of the people and not take such actions that can harm the election process,” Naime said.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, says in a DW interview Abdullah has made a dramatic accusation while presenting no substantive evidence. In order to uphold the integrity of the electoral process, Kugelman adds, Afghan election officials probably won’t start to investigate these allegations until the vote counting process has concluded.

An election observer mission from the US-based National Democratic Institute [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy] concluded two days after the poll that “the problems it observed did not appear to be widespread or systematic”.