Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, today, July 11, to meet with Afghan leaders including presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani and President Hamid Karzai.
Secretary Kerry Travel to Afghanistan, Department of State
Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani emerged as the apparent winner, with 56.4% of the vote, in preliminary results from a June 14 runoff. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah rejected the results, charging widespread fraud, and declared himself the victor.
Followers of Mr. Abdullah have called for him to set up a "parallel government," raising fears of a return to civil war. President Barack Obama has urged Mr. Abdullah to wait for an investigation of ballot-stuffing allegations.
Kerry in Afghanistan to Try to Broker Election-Audit Deal, Wall Street Journal
The prospect of Mr. Abdullah, who has the support of many powerful former warlords, attempting to seize power added a new layer of peril to the crisis. It raised the possibility of Afghanistan’s still fragile government and security forces fracturing, possibly along regional and ethnic lines, just as American-led combat forces are preparing to withdraw.
Kerry Pushes for Solution to Afghanistan Election Crisis, New York Times
Washington has already made clear that any attempt by either man to incite violence would lead to a suspension of all US financial assistance. Such a move would be crippling to the Afghan government. The threat appears to be aimed at Mr Abdullah in particular.
“We made clear that the United States and its partners are not in a position to support a divided Afghanistan,” Ambassador James Dobbins said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday. “That any effort to establish a parallel presidency would make it impossible for the United States and its partners to continue their financial, economic and military support, and that the consequences for the country would be potentially quite dire.”
The possibility of a breakaway Tajik security force, combined with the news of a takeover of some Kabul police stations by people loyal to Abdullah, prompted President Barack Obama to call Abdullah and Ghani, and caution “in particular Dr. Abdullah about moving pre-emptively in an unconstitutional fashion,” Dobbins said in remarks Wednesday.
Both parties hope his visit may bring the impetus to break the weeks-long political stasis. The gulf between the two camps remains wide and it is unclear whether Kerry will be able to bridge the gap in an atmosphere of mistrust.
On Monday, both parties appeared on the cusp of an agreement that would have found a mutually acceptable way of identifying fraudulent votes. But the following morning Abdullah declared himself the winner in an emotional speech to a crowd of supporters who tore down a portrait of Karzai and replaced it with a photograph of Abdullah.
That Mr Ghani could overtake Dr Abdullah in the second round is plausible, as supporters of defeated candidates threw their weight behind him. Mr Ghani, a Pushtun, has the clear support of Pushtuns, who reside mainly in the south and east and who are Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic group. What is suspicious, however, is that far more Afghans appear to have voted in the second round than in the first—8.1m versus 6.6m. In one south-eastern province Mr Ghani’s vote leapt tenfold. He attributes success to better campaigning in his strongholds—and persuading Pushtun leaders to let women vote.
The deadlock over the vote has quashed hopes for a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan, a concern for Washington as most U.S.-led forces withdraw from the nation this year.