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Afghanistan Swears in Two Presidents

Kabul, Afghanistan —(Map)

On Monday, two different men were sworn in as president of Afghanistan, bringing political confusion to the country at a time when it most needs a stable government.

Afghanistan held an election in September. The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani was running against the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah. The results were delayed several times.

President Ashraf Ghani addresses the press at the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan on Sept. 27, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr - 170927-D-GY869-0398)
On Monday, two different men were sworn in as president of Afghanistan, bringing political confusion to the country. President Ashraf Ghani, shown above in 2017, is the official winner of the September election.
(Source: Staff Sgt. Jette Carr/US Air Force [CC BY], via Wikimedia Commons.)

When the results were finally announced in late February, Mr. Ghani was named the winner, taking just over 50% of the vote. But Mr. Abdullah refused to accept the results. He says that he won the election and that the government didn’t count the votes fairly.

Though there have been many attempts to resolve the problem, neither man has changed his position. On Monday, at about the same time, each man held a ceremony which swore him in as president. Both ceremonies were carried live on national TV.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, speaks during one of the Halifax Chats of the 2017 Halifax International Security Forum.
Though Mr. Ghani won the election, taking just over 50% of the vote, Abdullah Abdullah (shown above in 2017) refused to accept the results. He says that he won the election and that the government didn’t count the votes fairly.
(Source: Halifax International Security Forum [CC BY-SA], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Something similar happened between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah in the last election, which was held in 2014. There was strong disagreement about who had won. For months there was confusion about the government of Afghanistan.

In the end, the United States (US) got involved in settling the disagreement. The situation was resolved by creating a new position, called the “chief executive”, and giving the job to Mr. Abdullah.

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani shakes hands with rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah after both addressed reporters at the United Nations Mission Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 12, 2014,
In the 2014 election, Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah also disagreed about who had won. The situation was resolved by creating a new position for Mr. Abdullah, called the “chief executive”. The two men are shown in 2014 after reaching an agreement.
(Source: U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

In the current situation, Mr. Ghani is the official winner. For many countries, like the US, he is the president. But the bitter political split is a big problem for a government facing many other challenges.

The situation is tense in Afghanistan now, and the confusion over the leadership is not helpful.

The US has been involved in a war in Afghanistan since 2001. The Afghan government at the time was run by the Taliban – a group of strict Muslims who use warlike methods to try to achieve their goals. The US invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban supported a terrorist group which had attacked the US.

Former Taliban fighters line up to handover their Rifles to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound.
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 because the Taliban supported a terrorist group which had attacked the US. This picture, from 2012, shows fighters who have left the Taliban and are giving up their weapons.
(Source: ResoluteSupportMedia, via Flickr.com.)

Since then, the US has been supporting the Afghan government and fighting the Taliban. But at the end of February, the US and the Taliban signed a peace treaty. The agreement is supposed to bring all American soldiers out of Afghanistan by May of next year.

The next steps in the treaty process are tricky, and involve talks between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government. The Taliban doesn’t accept that the Afghan government is actually in charge of the country.

Soldiers with the 101st Division Special Troops Battalion, 101st Airborne Division watch as two Chinook helicopters fly in
The US and the Taliban have signed a peace treaty which is supposed to bring all American soldiers out of Afghanistan by May of next year. If the US leaves, Afghanistan will need a strong government to work out its own peace deals with the Taliban.
(Source: Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez/US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

If the US is going to leave the country, it is important that there is a strong government in Afghanistan which can work out its own peace deals with the Taliban.

Talks between the government and the Taliban were supposed to start today. With the confusion over Afghanistan’s “two presidents”, it’s not clear whether those talks will still take place.

Kabul, Afghanistan


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