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  • Both President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah claim the Sept. 28 election win.

    Both President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah claim the Sept. 28 election win. | Photo: EFE

Published 8 March 2020
Opinion

"This is a bad omen for the peace process," a diplomat whose country's embassy in Kabul had been told an invitation to Abdullah's ceremony was on the way, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Afghanistan is set for two presidential inaugurations Monday, as both President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah claim the Sept. 28 election win and will hold parallel events, jeopardizing the recent peace deal reached between the Taliban and occupying forces of the United States. 

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"This is a bad omen for the peace process," a diplomat whose country's embassy in Kabul had been told an invitation to Abdullah's ceremony was on the way, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Ghani was declared the winner by Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission on Feb. 18 and recognized by the European Union and most international governments.  However, his main rival Abdullah rejected the result and pledged to form his own government, also proclaiming himself the winner.

Abdullah’s camp issued invitations to a parallel swearing-in ceremony on Monday morning at a similar time to Ghani's. Diplomats and experts have said a lack of cohesion among Afghan political leaders will make it difficult for talks with the Taliban, which are due to start on Tuesday.

The competing claims, neither of which Washington has recognized, threaten a U.S.-led peace process with the Taliban as the peace deal is to be followed by inter-Afghan talks on a political settlement to end decades of war.

U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held talks with both camps to try to broker a solution before Monday. Back on Feb. 24, the U.S. asked already the Afghan President to delay his second-term inauguration over concerns it could inflame an election feud.

The Ghani-Abdullah feud threatens to further complicate the naming of a delegation to negotiate with the insurgents. Also, the Taliban have always refused to negotiate with the government, which they consider a U.S. puppet.

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In the 2014 polls, the same presidential candidates ended in a deadlock accusing each other of massive fraud. The U.S. arbitrated the dispute and settled in a power-sharing system that made Ghani president and Abdullah his chief executive.

Since then, the relationship between the two men has been marked by an intense power struggle.

This comes as the U.S. and the Taliban - which has been fighting the U.S.-led NATO forces in the country since their regime was toppled in 2001 -  signed a peace deal with the U.S. on Feb. 29. 

The agreement signed provides for the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops in 14 months and the Taliban's commitment not to allow Afghan soil to be used as an insurgent base against other countries. Despite the deal, violence continues in the war-torn country, as the militants blame the Ghani administration’s lack of commitment to the peace process. 
 
Meanwhile, Afghanistan continues to be Washington’s longest conflict in its history. It was started after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan as part of the so-called "war on terror" to dismantle Al-Qaeda by removing the Taliban from power. 

Almost US$975 billion has been spent and between 147,000 and 220,000 people have died.

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