A power-sharing deal in Afghanistan has brought about a resolution to the June presidential runoff, making a candidate who once used Clinton adviser James Carville for his campaign the successor to Hamid Karzai.
Ashraf Ghani’s win in the presidential contest marred by election fraud gives Afghanistan a Christian first lady: his Lebanese wife, Rula.
Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who emerged from the first round of voting in May with lead, will assume the newly created post of chief executive, with similar duties to a prime minister.
Abdullah and Ghani signed the agreement in a ceremony broadcast across the country on TV.
“The President spoke with Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah earlier today to congratulate them on concluding their agreement for a government of national unity and safeguarding the first democratic and peaceful transfer of leadership in Afghanistan’s history,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Sunday.
“The President thanked Drs. Ghani and Abdullah for their leadership and willingness to partner to advance Afghanistan’s national interests,” Earnest continued. “The President reaffirmed the United States’ strategic partnership with Afghanistan and commitment to continue its support to the new Afghan government.”
Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the deal as “a moment of extraordinary statesmanship.”
“These two men have put the people of Afghanistan first, and they’ve ensured that the first peaceful democratic transition in the history of their country begins with national unity,” Kerry said.
“Americans know very well that the road to democracy is contentious and challenging, but it’s a road that leads to the best place. It doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve had our own contentious elections and witnessed their aftermath. I’ve lived some of them. But if my recent visits to Kabul and the hours upon hours on the phone with these two men have taught me anything, it’s how invested Afghanistan is in this historic effort.”
Kerry added that Afghanistan “has an enormous opportunity to grow stronger from this recent moment of testing.”
“Elections are not the end. They must be the beginning, where Afghanistan and its people move forward on a reform agenda and make improvements to the electoral process,” he said. “…The United States remains determined to honor the Afghan people’s historic achievement by helping their transition succeed.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) noted “the election, especially the tabulation, has been rough, but there is cause for hope, if things change.”
“After nearly 13 years under the failed policies of the Karzai administration, Afghanistan desperately needs a fresh start with a new leader and innovative ideas,” Royce said. “…President-elect Ghani must confront many challenges, including rampant corruption, revenue shortfalls, and a very challenging security situation.”
After the Taliban took over, Ghani taught at UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins. After the fall of the Taliban, he returned to his home after 24 years away and became chief adviser to Karzai, receiving wide coverage in international media. Ghani ran against Karzai in 2009 yet finished fourth; he hired James Carville as a campaign consultant then. He’s for women’s rights but also supports negotiating with the Taliban if the terrorists agree to a ceasefire first.
Citing Karzai’s corruption, Abdullah, a doctor and former adviser in the Northern Alliance that battled the Taliban and al-Qaeda before the coalition invasion, ran for president in 2009 but withdrew due to the tainted election process. He has criticized Karzai’s intention of negotiating with the Taliban.