A Unified Government Remains Crucial for Progress in Afghanistan
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
After five months of delay amid low voter turnout and accusations of election fraud, the final results of the Afghanistan presidential election were announced declaring Ashraf Ghani as the winner. In a narrow margin of victory for Ghani, his challenger Dr. Abdullah refused to concede, forming a parallel government. With both men claiming the right to lead Afghanistan, this schism comes at an inopportune time as the nation responds to the escalating COVID-19 crisis and engages in peace talks with the Taliban. In a recent private meeting with Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a strong message from President Trump. Absent a unified government, Afghanistan risks a full troop withdrawal and up to $2 billion in a reduction of U.S. aid.
The ongoing dispute between Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah has created a strong reaction from the Afghan people and their representatives in Parliament. Lacking an agreement to resolve the political dispute, the U.S. will cut the much-needed aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion. With much at stake, the Wolesi Jirga was prompted to hold a series of debates on the issue resulting in the formation of a delegation of Members of Parliament to mediate a settlement between Ghani and Abdullah.
The future of Afghanistan’s democracy depends on its elected officials abiding by the rule of law and the will of the people. Although media attention has been focused on the dispute between the presidential candidates, it is important for U.S. policymakers to direct attention to the ability of the Wolesi Jirga to act as a democratically elected functioning body of government. Afghanistan must put an end to systemic government corruption and dysfunction in order to achieve progress as a nation, provide economic opportunities for ordinary Afghans, and improve its relationship with the United States and other international allies.