Ghani's administration must now not only forge an effective
government after so much acrimony, but also deal an emboldened
Taliban-led insurgency that is bringing near-daily attacks across
In announcing the pact, authorities withheld the final election
numbers, apparently as part of the political deal between Ghani and
rival Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who claimed the
vote was rigged against him.
"The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan declares Dr
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the president of Afghanistan," commission
chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said.
Under the terms of the unity deal, Ghani will share power with a
chief executive proposed by Abdullah. The two will share control
over who leads key institutions such as the army and other executive
Nuristani acknowledged deep flaws in a June 14 run-off vote and said
a U.N.-supervised audit was not adequate to weed out all
vote-rigging. The audit was organized at a cost of $10 million to be
paid with U.S. aid money, according to the United Nations.
The final sticking point in the negotiations to form a unity
government was Abdullah's insistence that the official final vote
tally not be released, his aides have said. Abdullah was widely
believed to be far behind in the official results.
He appeared to have won a concession to at least delay making the
results public, though Nuristani said on Sunday the full count would
be provided at a later date.
Ghani and Abdullah ratified the power-sharing agreement earlier on
Sunday at the presidential palace, joined by outgoing leader Hamid
Karzai. The rivals-turned-partners shared a brief embrace after
Ghani is expected to be sworn in as president on Sept. 29, according
to a senior official.
The negotiated end to the crisis was far from the smooth election
process that the U.S. and its allies had envisioned. They had hoped
for a plausible democratic transfer of power ahead of the end of the
military mission that started with the 2001 ouster of the Islamist
Taliban for sheltering al Qaeda leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks
on the United States.
Still, after weeks of election uncertainty that at times seemed
about to descend into political and ethnic violence, the resolution
was greeted with relief by many Afghans.
"The six-month election deadlock damaged life for Afghans," Kabul
resident Mohammad Alim said. "We didn't have normal sleep, investors
fled from Afghanistan, people were worried about their future ...
but today people are relaxed and happy."
But the government will face significant difficulty in improving the
lives of Afghans who face hardship as tax revenues plummet, aid
flows fall and contracts with the NATO-led force dry up with most
foreign troops leaving by the end of the year.
The accord signed on Sunday was the finalization of a broader
power-sharing structure brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry, who welcomed its signing.
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Speaking in New York before the start of U.N. meetings, Kerry said
the naming of a new president was an opportunity to sign a bilateral
security agreement (BSA) with the United States.
"(The deal) offers a huge opportunity for progress in Afghanistan,
for the signing of the BSA in a week or so, inauguration next week
for the new president," Kerry said before a meeting with his French
One of Ghani's first acts would be to sign the
long-delayed security agreement as he has previously declared
support for the pact to allow a small force of foreign troops to
remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
Many in Kabul fear instability could be exploited by the Taliban,
who have made significant gains in the south and east, taking
advantage of gaps in U.S. air support this summer fighting season.
A U.S. official in Kabul said the deal to end the election dispute
was far from ideal, but preferable to many alternatives that could
pose a greater threat to stability.
Some Afghans worry that the competing interests of powers that seek
influence in their country - including Iran, Pakistan and India -
may play into how the U.S.-brokered deal works out, a complaint
often raised by outgoing President Karzai.
"Afghanistan’s enemies and neighboring countries ... are waiting to
see if this agreement brings a crisis," said Kabul member of
parliament Qurban Ali Erfani, listing enemies as "the Taliban, some
foreigners and our neighboring countries".
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, and Abdullah, whose main support comes
from the country's second largest ethnic group, the Tajiks, face a
difficult task forging unity in a country riven by ethnic and tribal
Abdullah's accusations that the run-off election was rigged in
Ghani's favor had raised fears of ethnic violence, which could have
ignited a broader conflict.
"A spark could have dealt a strong blow to the political process, if
today's deal had not happened," commented Waliullah Rahmani,
director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies.
"Afghanistan will now be able to move forward for the next five
years, he said, "Even though it is not an ideal government."
(Additional reporting by Kay Johnson and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul
and Lesley Wroughton in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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