Afghanistan is one step closer to what millions of Afghans went to the polls for in Afghanistan’s run-off presidential election in June: the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power from one president to another.
After complaints of voter fraud threatened to split the country apart and dash hopes that the will of the Afghan people would emerge from the contest, the two presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani have agreed to a way forward. That path has two goals: in the short term, to ensure the legitimacy of the election, and for the longer term, the formation of a unity government that represents the interests of all Afghans.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew to Afghanistan July 11 for intense discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the two presidential candidates, helped broker the agreement. During remarks in Kabul, Secretary Kerry praised Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani for the spirit of compromise and leadership both displayed, President Karzai for his constructive role in the process, and UN Special Representative Jan Kubis for his commitment to productive dialogue among all involved.
The agreement calls for an internationally supervised audit of all votes. Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani have committed to participate in and abide by the results of the audit, thereby sending, Secretary Kerry said, “the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process and to Afghan democracy.”
In addition, it has been agreed that the winner of the election will serve as president and will work with the man who did not win to ensure that the interests of all Afghans are represented in the top leadership of the country.
In the meantime, President Karzai has agreed to stay on as President until the results of the election are finalized. The presidential inauguration, originally scheduled for August 2, has been modestly postponed to accommodate this process.
Secretary of State Kerry cautioned that “these are the first steps in what will be, obviously a hard, difficult process,” but he promised the United States will be working with both candidates and Afghan officials in the weeks ahead “to guarantee that words are translated into the actions that the people of Afghanistan expect.”
“The United States,” said Mr. Kerry, “supports a sovereign, unified and democratic Afghanistan and our commitment to that future is absolutely strong.”