Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 44, 11 March 2020

Two Presidents in Afghanistan
Sukanya Bali

In the news

On 9 March Afghanistan's President, Ashraf Ghani took oath for his second term. Simultaneously, Abdullah Abdullah former chief executive also took an oath, to form a parallel government. The US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad made several efforts over the week to negotiate between the two political leaders. 

The UN special representative said, "Terribly sad and dangerous. Two parallel ceremonies. This simply cannot continue. Strong unity is required, not destructive rivalries". The swearing ceremony of Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani was attended by international representatives including foreign diplomats including Zalmay Khalilzad, the US and NATO force commander. 

During the ceremony, a blast was reported, which was later claimed by the Islamic State. 

Issues at large

The Afghan election took place on 28 September, and the results were announced in February. In the final vote count, Ashraf Ghani attained 50.62 per cent of votes whereas Abdullah Abdullah secured 39.52 per cent. Abdullah Abdullah has disregarded the result and declared himself the winner saying that he would 'form his government'.

The election result is similar to that of 2014 when both the leaders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah was brought to negotiate over a power-sharing agreement by the US and the creation of a new position of 'Chief Executive' for Abdullah Abdullah. However, this time the US has failed to bring both together, which is likely to further delay the Intra-Afghan peace process. 

The election results were announced just before the signing of the US-Taliban peace deal. Ashraf Ghani was declared a winner and Abdullah Abdullah announced for setting a parallel government in Afghanistan. The US rebuked the formation of the parallel government and the US secretary of state-issued asserting Washington's stand. 

The US-Taliban deal went through several rounds of negotiations since 2018. Finally, the deal was signed between the US, Taliban, and Afghan government after a weeklong reduction in violence on 29 February in Doha. 

The deal seeks to address four major aspects. First, withdrawal of all the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in a timeline of 14 months. Second, a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Third, an intra-Afghan dialogue on 10 March. Fourth, guarantees from the Taliban of not letting anyone use Afghan soil as the launchpad of attacks against the US. 

A large number of women have come forward showing 'discontent' with the deal and called the deal, 'biased' in nature. In Afghanistan, women gained equal rights in the 2004 constitution. 

In perspective

First, the two ceremonies and the parallel governments will adversely affect the peace process which the world is looking for in Afghanistan. The dispute between the two leaders will bring in new internal crisis, which will further lead to instability in the country. 

Second, the Taliban, which considered the Afghan government as 'puppet' government is not likely to hold negotiations with the disputed government. They already condemn the government, and hence bringing an inclusive team to the negotiating table will be a significant challenge in the coming week for Afghanistan. This will delay the start of intra-Afghan talks. 

Third, the political crisis in the country will further have economic repercussions which may increase poverty, unemployment and an uncertain future.

Fourth, women of Afghanistan believe that the deal would affect the long-lost freedom they had once achieved. In the name of bringing peace to Afghanistan, the nation may lose its integrity and security of its women.

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