Afghanistan’s two rival candidates reached a breakthrough agreement Saturday to a complete audit of their contested presidential election and, whoever the victor, a national unity government.
The deal, brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, offers a path out of what threatened to be a debilitating political crisis for Afghanistan, with both candidates claiming victory and talking of setting up competing governments. Such a scenario could have dangerously split the fragile country’s government and security forces at a time the US is pulling out most of its troops and the Taliban continues to wage a fierce insurgency.
Instead, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all 8 million ballots in the presidential election. They vowed to form a national unity government once the results are announced, presumably one that includes members of each side.
Kerry, who conducted shuttle diplomacy between the two candidates late into the night Friday and Saturday, warned that much work still remained. “This will be still a difficult road because there are important obligations required and difficult decisions to be made,” Kerry told reporters after briefing Afghanistan’s current president, Hamid Karzai, shortly after midnight.