Afghan president and rival announce power-sharing agreement

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KABOUL –
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing agreement two months after the two declared themselves the winners of the presidential election last September, Ghani spokesman said Sunday.

Political deal would see Ghani remain president of war-torn nation, tweeted spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi. The agreement also calls on Abdullah to head the country’s Higher National Reconciliation Council, and he will be able to appoint half of Ghani’s cabinet and issue decrees.

The Reconciliation Council has been given the authority to manage and approve all matters related to the peace process in Afghanistan. The council will have five deputies from the two leadership teams.

Omed Maisam, spokesman for the Abdullah team, confirmed that an agreement had been signed at the presidential palace. “A technical team will work on the implementation of the agreement and the details will be shared later,” he said.

Afghanistan has been in political turmoil since the country’s electoral commission announced in December that Ghani had won the September 28 election with more than 50% of the vote. Abdullah had garnered more than 39 percent of the vote, according to the electoral commission, but he and the Election Claims Commission charged with numerous voting irregularities.

Ghani and Abdullah both declared themselves president at the parallel inauguration ceremonies in March. They have been locked in a power struggle since then and the discord prompted the Trump administration to announce that it would cut $ 1 billion in aid to Afghanistan if the two were unable to settle their disputes.

A peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban signed on February 29 calls on US and NATO troops to leave Afghanistan. It was considered at the time to be the best chance for peace for Afghanistan after decades of war.

Since then, the United States has been trying to get the Taliban and the Afghan government to start intra-Afghan negotiations, but political unrest and personal acrimony between Ghani and Abdullah has hampered talks. Negotiations scheduled to take place in March never took place.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with the two leaders on Sunday, saying he was satisfied with their willingness to move towards intra-Afghan negotiations but “regretting the time lost,” said the spokesman for the department. of State, Morgan Ortagus.

The US envoy for peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, tweeted that the Afghan leaders must respect the commitments they had already made and “take seriously the determination of the Afghan people and the world, to finally see the end of this conflict” .

Another important point in Sunday’s 5-page agreement was to grant the rank of field marshal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a staunch supporter of Abdullah and former vice president.

A former Uzbek warlord, Dostum left Afghanistan in 2017 in Turkey after the attorney general’s office launched an investigation into allegations that his supporters had tortured and sexually abused a former ally who had become a political rival. Upon his return to Kabul in 2018, an ISIS suicide bomber carried out an attack near the airport, killing 14 people and nearly missing Dostum.

Despite 18 years and billions of dollars in international aid, Afghanistan remains desperately poor. The poverty level rose from 35% of the population in 2012 to more than 55% last year. Poverty in Afghanistan is defined as a person who survives on $ 1 or less per day. Successive Afghan governments, including that of Ghani, have been accused by international watchdogs of widespread corruption.

Meanwhile, Kabul and other cities are blocked to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Afghanistan has so far done only limited testing with around 22,000 tests. The country has more than 6,400 confirmed infections in a country of 36.6 million people. As more tests become available, confirmed infection figures in the country are likely to rise sharply, public health officials said. The death toll – officially 168 – is probably much higher.

The country’s health system, devastated by four decades of war, is unfortunately unprepared for a major epidemic.



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