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The Taliban attack, which killed more than 150 Afghan soldiers over the weekend, has raised serious questions about President Ashraf Ghani's ability to govern the country. Is it time for the president to step down?
In his recent Afghanistan visit, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis thanked Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for his leadership "in the midst of very, very difficult times." Mattis' words definitely underline the strong US support for the Afghan leader.
Domestically, however, Ghani's popularity is declining. Critics accuse the former World Bank advisor and his aides of "micromanaging" the country while recklessly ignoring Afghanistan's bigger problems, mainly the Taliban-led insurgency, a donor-dependent economy, and a fragile political system.
On Friday, Taliban militants killed more than 150 Afghan soldiers in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The country's army chief and defense minister tendered their resignations in its wake, but experts say the deteriorating security situation is a result of an ineffective political system and rampant corruption in government's offices and ministries.
Flawed power sharing
Ghani is no stranger to criticism, even from his own supporters. Some of his aides parted ways with him when he agreed to a power-sharing deal with his rival presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, in 2014. The deal was brokered by then US Secretary of State John Kerry to prevent the bitterly contested elections from plunging Afghanistan into turmoil.
As a result of the US-backed deal, a national unity government was formed in Afghanistan, with Ghani as president and Abdullah as his chief executive.
Both Ghani and Abdullah promised to put their differences aside. This, however, never happened, according to a recent report published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled, "Afghanistan: The future of the National Unity Government."
Abdullah believes he is an equal partner in the national unity government, but Ghani and his aides insist the real power, according to the Afghan constitution, rests with the presidency. The vagueness of the 2014 power-sharing agreement continues to be divisive in Afghan politics, the ICG report says.
"The national unity government is beset with internal disagreements and discord and facing a resurgent insurgency," the report states, stressing that it would increase the risk of internal conflict and insecurity in an already fragile state if the current political and constitutional tensions are left unresolved.
The unsuccessful power sharing is not the only problem with the Afghan government. President Ghani has also been unsuccessful in keeping his own allies by his side. Since he took over office, many of his allies have left the government.
"We were with Ghani all the way, but the moment he became president he forgot all the promises he made to us," Sadiq Patman, an official in the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai's administration, told DW.
Patman believes that one of the reasons behind the current political instability in Afghanistan is Ghani's treatment of his presidential campaign allies.
"In a presidential system, effective governance is only possible by keeping the campaign alliances intact. President Ghani hasn't done that," Patman added.
"Ghani is micromanaging almost everything and has a problem in trusting people," Patman claimed.
Many Afghanistan observers are critical of Ghani's style of governance.
Siegfried O. Wolf, a director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), says the Afghan president is trying to keep an absolute control over all aspects of the government. This, Wolf says, has led Ghani to surround himself with loyalists only.
"The fact that Ghani does not have much in common - neither in political thinking nor behavior - with senior members of his administration is also complicating the situation," Wolf told DW.
Despite the criticism, Ghani has some achievements to his credit, for instance minimizing corruption in some government offices and securing NATO's long-term support for Afghanistan.
Corruption, however, has remained widespread in Afghanistan, public services are ineffective and the insurgency is more brutal than at any other time since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
"Afghanistan is in a fragile state, but it is definitely not a failed country," Wolf said.
President Ghani, who has written a book on how to fix failed states, has two more years to fix Afghanistan. But an increasing number of people in Afghanistan believe he is not the right person for the job.