13 Years after US started Bombing it, Afghanistan Still Unstable

News Analysis: Afghan Deal Leaves Room For National Disunity

By Frud Bezhan via RFE/RL

After months of wrangling and high tension, Afghanistan has finally named a president-elect. 

Ashraf Ghani's name was officially entered into the books as the winner of the highly contentious, fraud-marred contest, shortly after he and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing deal. 

The developments signal an important breakthrough and spell the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history. But important questions remain over the mechanics of the compromise deal.

Who Gets What?

Abdullah, or his choice for the post, will assume the position of chief executive under the agreement. The newly created role has been compared to that of a prime minister, and the agreement allows for a possible parliamentary system in the future, but for now power ultimately rests with the president.​

Under the terms of the power-sharing agreement, the new government will have a cabinet — including the chief executive and his two deputies. Emphasis is placed on "parity" when it comes to deciding on leadership positions in ministries relating to security and the economy. The two sides will be "equally represented at the leadership level." 

Lower-level appointments will be "equitably" distributed, meaning there will not be a one-for-one handout of jobs. This could be a source of disagreement, seeing as Ghani has stressed a "merit-based" mechanism for appointing officials.

Srijoy BoseSrijoy Bose
Srijoy Bose

Srijoy Bose

"A merit-based system would be one effective way to undo the present clientelist system — and it is precisely for this reason that key actors will be apprehensive," says Srijoy Bose, a researcher at Australian National University who served as an international observer during the June 14 runoff. "They will continue to coerce their patrons into acquiescing to their demands. The challenge, then, will be how the president and CEO accommodate each other's vast networks without coming to blows."

Technically, the president will lead the cabinet, while the chief executive will oversee its implementation of government policies and will be "answerable to the president." The chief executive will also chair regular meetings of a new "council of ministers," which will take care of the day-to-day administration. 

While an agreement has been signed, details must still be sorted out. Upon taking office, Ghani must issue a presidential decree outlining the specific "responsibilities, authorities, and honors" of the chief-executive position. With the president having final say over the extent of the chief executive’s authority, there is much room for disagreement over the interpretation of the document. 

In that event, the president and chief executive are committed to working out their differences in the spirit of "partnership, collegiality, collaboration, and most importantly, responsibility to the people of Afghanistan."

What Comes Next?

The chief executive is intended to be a temporary fix, eventually giving way to a prime minster. A Constitutional Loya Jirga, a traditional gathering of tribal elders, would be convened in about two years to hammer out the details.

As president, Ghani can create the post of chief executive by decree, but the constitution would have to be amended to establish a prime-minister position that has teeth and cannot be dissolved by the president. The Constitutional Loya Jirga would have to define and ratify those changes, after which parliament would need to sign off.

Here, the current presidential system carries significant influence. The president has the ability to hand-pick attendees of the jirga, potentially shaping the outcome of the gathering and helping determine what powers are conceded to the prime minister. 

Complicating matters is that a Constitutional Loya Jirga can only convene when there are elected district councils. In the document signed by Ghani and Abdullah, both committed to holding elections that would establish such councils "as soon as possible." 

Can They Coexist?

The big question is whether Kabul is big enough for two powerful figures. 

The international community has expressed hope that the compromise deal will usher in stability in the country. Washington said that "respect for the democratic process" was the only viable path forward for Afghanistan, while regional heads of state offered votes of confidence about the agreement and the end of the election crisis. 

The Taliban, meanwhile, slammed the deal as a "sham."

"Installing Ashraf Ghani and forming a bogus administration will never be acceptable to the Afghans," Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement e-mailed to journalists. 

The reaction of election-weary Afghans was muted. There were no large-scale celebrations on the streets of Kabul, but there were no orchestrated protests either. 

Anger was evident, however, over the failure by election officials to release the final results — reportedly out of concerns that doing so could inflame ethnic tensions. 

"It signals that people's votes do not actually matter and highlights the fact that politics in Afghanistan is about deal-making and negotiations," Bose says. "As one expert has put it, allowing the votes to be 'discarded' not only robs the candidates of legitimacy but also ensures that such crises will recur in the future."

After millions of Afghans defied Taliban threats to cast their ballots in April and June, the murky outcome raised questions of whether their votes had counted. 

Mirrored from RFE/RL

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

PBS NewsHour: “Will Afghanistan’s power-sharing deal last?”

4 Responses

  1. David C Unger

    so what if it doesn’t work,makes enemies,weakens US in the world. it sells on the Hill, sells in the polls, proves Dems ain’t doves

  2. Maybe it’s time to stop pretending that the “international order” can be based any longer on the mythical framing of “nation-states?” The Karzai and al-Abadi and and even our own Empire with its real structure of corporate clout (including the docked tail called the UK) are scarcely the stuff of Bismarckian realpolitik any more. So much of what is screwing up the planet and many locales is the sham attempt to maintain the fictions, while backstage, the Elites ripp all the rest of the wealth out of the planet…

  3. Afghanistan will have peace when India and Pakistan have peace – once Pakistan no longer wants to fund rebel Pashto groups, it will settle down.
    As for the US – it went there to kill Bin Laden. He’s dead now; the US should be able to leave (although both presidential contenders have asked them to stay…)

  4. My guess is that like so many other areas of the planet, short of climate collapse or the triumph of Ebola or similar disaster, the map demarcation identified as “Afghanistan” is not ever going to have “peace,” as that is roughly understood. Not while the tribal and sept and family structures, overlain by larger units of competition and vengeance and corruption, like warlord demesnes, drug districts and that thing laughingly called “national government” and its “national army” and “national police force,” and of course the state-security structures and “contractor connections” and all the other bits and pieces of such dys-organization as humans can manage.

    And that is without regard to the little quantum jumps in violence and disassociation that the ISI and Pak Army elements and “coalition” and CIA and whatever the Russian and Chinese and British, etc., sneaky-petes can manage to induce as part of their Gamesmanship. From what I read of the area, loyalties and commensalities and arrangements are and will always be in flux, and where everyone (male, at least, and able to carry them) has weapons ready to hand, and a haughty and touchy sense of “pride,” and ambition and aggression, occasions for conflict and abuse and oppression will always be immanent. Context?

    link to blog.foreignpolicy.com
    link to presstv.com
    link to pajhwok.com
    link to thefiscaltimes.com
    link to telegraph.co.uk
    …and so much, much more.

    The faded, corporate-gutted US Empire and its War Department and contractors are just the latest
    clumsy, heavy-booted, idiotic bit player in a very long running drama. “We” can at least take pride in having been manipulated more effectively than prior occupants, and having dumped way more treasure and blood into the ever-avid soil…

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