Friday, September 19, 2014

Political Impasse in Afghanistan Erodes Hope for Peace Talks With Taliban --- KABUL—The continuing crisis over Afghanistan's disputed presidential election is undermining chances that the country's next government, should one be formed, would be able to open peace talks with the Taliban. -- The Taliban have refused to negotiate with President Hamid Karzai, dismissing him as an American stooge. Yet they largely abstained from attacking the campaigns of the two candidates vying to replace him, fueling hopes that a new government would be able to negotiate an end to the 13-year war. -- nstead, the monthslong bickering over who won the June 14 election and how to form a unity government has pushed the country to the brink of all-out civil war. And many Afghans fear that, even if a power-sharing compromise is eventually found, the new administration is likely to be too ridden with infighting to engage in serious discussions with the Taliban. --- "The new government will be a very weak government. If one part of it will want to talk to the Taliban, the other part will make problems and call it a conspiracy against the Afghan nation, against democracy and against the Afghan constitution," says Waheed Muzhda, who served in the Taliban regime's foreign ministry before the 2001 U.S. invasion, and was involved in recent informal contacts between the Taliban and Afghan political leaders. -- Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani have both claimed victory in the presidential election, which was meant to usher in the first democratic transition in the country's history. -- While preliminary results gave a majority to Mr. Ghani, Mr. Abdullah has refused to recognize that tally, alleging massive fraud on his rival's behalf. Under U.S. pressure, the two then agreed to share power in a unity government. Talks on how to do that are dragging on. --- The United Nations Security Council, during a meeting Thursday also attended by representatives of neighboring and other interested countries, warned that the political "impasse would have long-lasting effects, affecting faith in the electoral process and exacerbating security issues," according to a U.N. statement. -- "People chose to go to the polls, and this created hopes for a new government, and a fresh start for the future," says Daoud Sultanzoy, a presidential candidate who was eliminated in the first round in April and is now a senior member of Mr. Ghani's team. "That freshness is gone. Unfortunately, this election lost its opportunity." --- Unlike in the past, Taliban commanders didn't try to disrupt the vote in that part of the country, contributing to an extremely high turnout of his supporters in provinces such as Khost, Paktia and Paktika. --- Both men say they want to sign a security agreement with the U.S. that Mr. Karzai opposes. It would allow U.S. troops to stay in the country once the coalition's current mandate expires in December. --- In the months since the election, as the political crisis deepened and the popularity of both politicians plummeted, the Taliban's mood appears to have shifted. -- "The way they treat each other and cannot agree on power sharing, how can they be expected to involve the Taliban in power sharing?" said Mohammed Akbar Agha, a former senior Taliban commander who maintains close ties with the insurgency's leadership, including his cousin, the Taliban's political committee chief Tayeb Agha. -- "The Taliban won't talk peace with either one," he said. "The next government will be 10 times worse than Karzai's." --- "People thought that these elections would change Afghanistan and bring development and peace to the country," says Israr Ahmad Khan, a youth democracy activist in Kabul. "Unfortunately, it really hurt the country. People have lost faith in the democratic process." - Read More, WSJ,


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