Afghan rivals sign power-sharing deal as political crisis subsides

(Video by Reuters) KABUL — Afghanistan’s monthslong election dispute, which resulted in the bizarre reality of two men taking the oath of office as president, reached a resolution Sunday when President Ashraf Ghani gave his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, the leading role in the country’s peace process with the Taliban and the right to appoint half the Cabinet. The new deal — whose negotiations were mediated by Afghan political leaders including former president Hamid Karzai — strips Abdullah of an executive role in the government but gives his coalition half the Cabinet appointments. Ghani also agreed to the formation of a High Council of Governance, which will give major political leaders a role in advising the president in hopes of shaping a united front as Afghanistan seeks an endgame with the Taliban. He now gets his wish of undivided executive authority at the top after a first term of having to share with Abdullah, who occupied a prime ministerial role of sorts based on the previous coalition deal negotiated by the United States. “The deal will make the format of peace talks with the Taliban easier in that there is a head of the reconciliation council now,” said Shukria Barakzai, a former member of parliament and a diplomat. For example, if Mr. Abdullah agrees with an issue, does that mean President Ghani will also, or vice versa?” The long political dispute took a deep toll on Afghanistan and coincided with rising violence by the Taliban and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The violence reached brutal new heights last week when, within an hour, militants attacked both a maternity ward in Kabul and a crowded funeral in Nangarhar province in the east. We want our country to be secure as soon as possible — that neither the government nor the Taliban fire another bullet in this land.” But soon after, facing international pressure and chiding from the United States, Abdullah showed a willingness to compromise again — much to the anger of some supporters. Dostum, a controversial former vice president to Ghani who switched sides to Abdullah, will be promoted to marshal, the highest military rank.