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Afghan president and rival ink power-sharing deal

May 17, 2020

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah have agreed to share presidential powers. The decision ends months of uncertainty that had included dual inauguration ceremonies.

Afghanische Präsidentschafts-Rivalen Ashraf Ghani (l) und Abdullah Abdullah
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Jensen

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in the country’s disputed presidential election Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal on Sunday that brings an end to months of political stalemate in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

Abdullah is pegged to head up the peace process with the Taliban while Ghani will lead Afghanistan as president.

The deal was finalized Sunday afternoon, with both parties agreeing on who would oversee a few key ministries, according to Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Ghani. 

"Doctor Abdullah will lead the National Reconciliation High Commission and members of his team will be included in the cabinet," he wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for Abdullah cited by the German press agency DPA said the 59-year-old ophthalmologist would have a 50% share in the government, covering ministries, independent directorates and provinces. 

It was not immediately clear which ministerial positions Abdullah's team would take over. However, during the negotiation process, he had pushed for control of a major portfolio such as finance or foreign affairs.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also welcomed Sunday's deal. "Secretary Pompeo noted that he regretted the time lost during the political impasse," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

"He reiterated that the priority for the United States remains a political settlement to end the conflict and welcomed the commitment by the two leaders to act immediately in support of prompt entry into intra-Afghan negotiations."

Read more: Afghanistan's endless political disarray imperils US-Taliban deal

Ghani and Abdullah both claimed victory after last September's presidential elections. Ghani was declared the official winner but the polls were dogged by successive delays and claims of vote-rigging, said the country's electoral complaints commission.

In March, both men held parallel presidential inauguration ceremonies inside the grounds of Kabul's presidential palace. The political impasse had prompted the US to cut $1 billion (€925 million) in aid to Afghanistan. It was not clear whether that funding would be restored following Sunday's deal.

The in-fighting has also complicated attempts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban to end the 19-year Afghan war. Washington signed an agreement with the group in March, stipulating that the US and its foreign allies would withdraw all forces by early next year. In return, the Taliban pledged not to attack foreign troops, but they have continued to clash with Afghan forces. 

Peace talks with the Taliban were set to begin in March, but US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday that a new date was currently being discussed.

kp, nm/aw (Reuters, AFP)