Afghan chief executive criticises president’s ‘wish list’ peace plan
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah yesterday dismissed a new peace proposal by his election rival President Ashraf Ghani as an unrealistic “wish list”, and questioned the validity of thousands of votes from recent polls.
US President Donald Trump in September ended year-long talks with the Taliban amid insurgent violence, leaving Afghans wondering what comes next in the grinding conflict.
Mr Ghani’s team last month released a seven-point proposal to build on those talks and end Afghanistan’s 18-year-old war with the Taliban.
While some observers praised aspects of the detailed proposal for its scope, they question whether certain elements – including a call for a month-long Taliban ceasefire before talks resume – are feasible.
“To be honest, nobody has taken that seven-point plan as a plan … it’s rather a wish list,” Dr Abdullah said.
The US negotiations with the Taliban centred on the Pentagon withdrawing troops in return for Taliban security guarantees, but drew scorn from Mr Ghani’s government, which was kept out of the talks because the militants do not recognise the administration.
Any negotiating team “has to be inclusive – government has to be a part of that”, said Mr Abdullah, 59, in his official compound next to the presidential palace in the centre of Kabul. Dr Abdullah and Mr Ghani squared off in a first-round vote on September 28 and election officials have delayed announcing initial results, citing technical problems.
In 2014, Mr Ghani and Dr Abdullah fought a close and angry race that sparked allegations of fraud and culminated with the US stepping in to broker an awkward power-sharing agreement between the rivals under a unity government.
Dr Abdullah’s position, not mentioned in the constitution, was created to end disputes that threatened political collapse. There are signs this year’s election risks a repeat of 2014, with Mr Ghani’s and Dr Abdullah’s camps alleging fraud.
But Dr Abdullah, who has previously said he believes he secured the most votes, said he would “absolutely” respect the result of recent polls – if the process is fair and transparent.
On Monday, his team said problems remained with about 300,000 of the 1.8 million votes that the Independent Election Commission said are valid.
The IEC failed to communicate to the public what is happening in the counting process, Dr Abdullah said, and “they have not explained it transparently to our representatives … more transparency is needed”.
This year’s vote is supposed to be the cleanest yet in Afghanistan, with a German company supplying biometric machines meant to stop people from voting more than once.
But Dr Abdullah said problems remain even with these high-tech systems, claiming that photos attached to some ballots had been taken from fake identity cards, and not actual voters.
Already, nearly a million of the initial votes cast have been purged owing to irregularities, meaning the recent election had by far the lowest turnout of any Afghan poll.
With Afghanistan’s war the overarching concern, presidential candidates’ policy positions were often drowned out by US-Taliban talks.
When asked how he differs from Mr Ghani, Dr Abdullah said the president had proven himself to be a divisive figure who failed to live up to his promises.
Mr Ghani’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.