Afghan presidential rivals sign power-sharing deal

Sep 22, 2014, 2:16 AM EDT
Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan's two presidential contenders signed an unprecedented power-sharing agreement Sunday, ending a drawn-out political standoff and setting the stage for a U.S. troop commitment past this year. USAToday reports:

The agreement names Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who received the most votes in a June runoff election, as president. His challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, will become chief executive.

"I am very happy today that both of my brothers, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, in an Afghan agreement for the benefit of this country, for the progress and development of this country, that they agreed on the structure affirming the new government of Afghanistan," President Hamid Karzai, in power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban, said after the signing.

Later Sunday, the country's election commission announced Ghani Ahmadzai as the winner of the presidential election, but it did not release final vote figures amid suggestions that doing so could inflame tensions. The commission was assigned to audit the results after allegations of widespread fraud.

The United States has welcomed a power-sharing deal that saw former finance minister Ashraf Ghani declared Afghanistan's next president, and said it hopes a crucial security agreement will be signed within a week. Channel News Asia reports:

Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah struck the deal on Sunday (Sep 21), ending a three-month standoff over disputed elections that had paralysed the country at a key moment with US-led troops winding down their 13-year war against the Taliban.

U.S .Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Afghanistan for what he called a "moment of extraordinary statesmanship" in which personal interests had been put aside for the sake of the country.

The "unity government... offers a huge opportunity for progress in Afghanistan, for the signing of the BSA in a week or so", he said.

Allegations of massive fraud in Afghanistan's June 14 runoff vote sparked a political crisis as both candidates claimed victory.

When the unity deal was finally signed after prolonged and difficult negotiations, Ghani embraced Abdullah briefly at a low-key ceremony in the presidential palace that lasted less than 10 minutes.