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Afghan rivals sign deal for power-sharing government

By Agencies in Kabul and Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-22 08:28

New administration faces challenges in fighting Taliban and paying bills

Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates signed a deal on Sunday to share power after months of turmoil over a disputed election that destabilized the nation while most foreign troops prepare to leave.

Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister who will be named president under the deal reached on Saturday night, embraced rival Abdullah Abdullah after they signed the agreement in a ceremony broadcast live on television.

The new administration faces huge challenges in fighting an emboldened Taliban-led insurgency and paying its bills amid plummeting tax revenue.

It will also face significant difficulty in improving the lives of ordinary Afghans who face hard times as aid flows fall and contracts with the NATO-led coalition dry up because most foreign troops will be gone by the end of the year.

The power-sharing deal was signed even though the final results of a hotly contested June 14 runoff vote have yet to be released. The signing ceremony took place at the presidential palace still occupied by outgoing leader Hamid Karzai.

Security agreement

Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said Ghani is expected to be sworn in as president within a week. He said one of Ghani's first acts would be to sign a long-delayed bilateral security agreement with the United States to allow a small force of foreign troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

The deal, brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, was swiftly welcomed by Washington.

"This agreement marks an important opportunity for unity and increased stability in Afghanistan," the White House said.

"We continue to call on all Afghans - including political, religious, and civil society leaders - to support this agreement and to come together in calling for cooperation and calm."

It will also come as a relief for Afghans, who have watched the tortuous process play out since they first voted in April.

The drawn-out election was meant to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's troubled history, but the disputes between Ghani and Abdullah, a former foreign minister, ruined hopes for a smooth transition.


The uncertainty surrounding the political transition emboldened the Taliban-led insurgency to launch more attacks across Afghanistan, just as the newly trained Afghan security forces prepare to lead the fight against the militants on their own after foreign troops withdraw.

Ghani and Abdullah finally struck a power-sharing deal on Saturday, their aides said. As part of that deal, the winner will become the new president, and the runner-up will nominate a chief executive with newly expanded powers.

Teams from the Ghani and Abdullah camps met late into Saturday night to try to finalize the power-sharing deal before the planned release of results of a UN-monitored audit of all 8 million ballots cast in the June runoff.

The Independent Election Commission had said it would announce the final results of the recount later on Sunday. However, no announcement had been scheduled by midday, and commission members could not be reached for comment.

Reuters - AFP - AP

(China Daily 09/22/2014 page12)

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