Thursday, September 18, 2014

Afghanistan Update ( September 18 , 2014 ) - Election stalemate , financial crisis and dead tired US soldiers......

Afghanistan latest political crisis in the making ...

Afghan Election Crisis Continues, Govt Seeks US Bailout

Afghan Candidates Can't Agree on Releasing Vote Results

by Jason Ditz, September 17, 2014
The Afghan election continues to be stalled, months later, with the two candidates both insisting the vote was fraudulent, and neither agreeing to a deal to release the results of the vote audit yet.
The problems are bigger than that for Afghanistan, however, as the government now says its broke, despite massive foreign aid it receives annually from the US and other occupiers, and needs an “immediate” $537 million bailout.
Of course it’s not unusual for governments to spend more money than they take in, even countries with a ton of foreign aid. Yet Afghanistan’s unsustainable military and its lack of anything amount to a real economy means no one is going to loan them money, so they’re once again pushing for handouts.
60% of the Afghan GDP is foreign aid right now, and while NATO will pay the Afghan military in the event of the government running out of money, the government is still down to feed them, meaning the troops could be stuck foraging for food in the countryside very soon.

Afghan elections: Why the candidates can't reach a deal

For Afghans to move forward voting results shouldn't be delayed any longer.

Last updated: 15 Sep 2014 12:00
Kawun Kakar

Kawun Kakar is a former United Nations official and Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of Afghanistan. Currently, he is Managing Partner of Kakar Advocates LLC, an international law firm based in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Ghani is keen to lock a deal that would ensure a smooth transition of power from one elected president to another, writes Kakar [AP]

US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent brokered deal to end the election deadlock in Afghanistanseems in tatters.

Abdullah Abdullah, one of the presidential contenders, has once again announced that he will not accept the election results and the political talks are deadlocked, despite last minute frantic efforts by the US and the UN to produce a breakthrough.

The deal, signed by Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, called for an audit of 100 percent of the votes and the formation of a government of "national unity". Accordingly, the winner of the audit would be the president, the runner up would be - or can appoint someone to a newly created post of - the Chief Executive Officer and, among others, there would be parity with regard to appointments of key security and economic posts.
To broker the two-pronged deal, which called for a technical audit and political negotiations, required two high level visits by Kerry to Afghanistan and several long and detailed phone calls by US President Barack Obama to the candidates.

'Industrial scale fraud'

Yet, when it seemed during the audit that Ghani's lead was insurmountable, Abdullah pulled out of the process. The decision follows Abdullah's previous exits from the process for what he has called "industrial scale fraud".  

The political part of the deal also fell apart mainly over disagreements about the role of the CEO. Abdullah contends that the ministers should report to the CEO while Ghani insists that the constitution gave that authority to the president. Instead, Ghani has proposed that the CEO have the authority to chair cabinet subcommittees and ministerial coordination committees. There has also been discussion about a proposal to establish an Executive Council of Ministers for the CEO to chair.

There also seems to be little incentive for Abdullah to agree to the political deal, which will require him to accept the results of the audit. Why should he boost the legitimacy of his opponent's victory or have to sell a deal to his supporters when he might be offered the same deal later?

The last minute creative new structures may be agreeable to the candidates, but there are serious questions about whether the candidates' supporters, especially Abdullah's hardline backers, would accept them. There also seems to be little incentive for Abdullah to agree to the political deal, which will require him to accept the results of the audit. Why should he boost the legitimacy of his opponent's victory or have to sell a deal to his supporters when he might be offered the same deal later?

Ghani, on the hand, is keen to lock a deal that would ensure a smooth transition of power from one elected president to another - the first in Afghanistan's long history. He has kept the door open for a deal even after the announcement of the results, expected to declare him the winner, and said that his opponent would be included in his administration.

So after two contentious months following the agreement, Afghan candidates are far apart and the election standoff continues.

The US authorities now privately admit that perhaps the Kerry plan was overly ambitious. It set in motion contradictory expectations: On the one hand, the audit would produce a winner and a loser, and on the other hand, power would be divided equally between the two contenders. The constitutionality of creating a new post of CEO - a well-defined term in the business world, but without precedence in political systems - is also debatable. It could be seen as an extra-constitutional attempt to impose a de facto prime minister in a presidential system.

One step forward?

There has been one major step forward though, namely the audit of 100 percent of votes conducted under the supervision of the United Nations and in the presence of international and domestic observers and the media. The UN, US, and others now stand by the results.

As it is, Afghanistan faces daunting challenges, including a full blown insurgency and a near economic melt-down due to the drastic reduction of international forces and lessening of international economic assistance, which has been the lifeline of the government for over a decade. According to the country's minister of finance, the prolonged election process alone has cost the economy of the country over $5bn.

Elections by nature are polarising. An agreement between the candidates to accept the results of the elections and to work together in a government of "national unity" would be welcomed by the majority of Afghans. But continuation of the political uncertainty due to the lack of a political deal seriously damages the country, and invites increased violence and corruption and the general weakening of law and order. It has certainly emboldened the Taliban and their foreign supporters who have lately conducted large-scale, sophisticated attacks killing and wounding tens of security officials and civilians.

The first ever transfer of power in Afghan history through an election was going to be messy. Without a voters' roll-call to determine the number and identity of voters, a raging insurgency and the presence of illegal armed groups in the country and weak national institutions, the election results were expected to be contested. But now that the votes have been counted several times and audited according to international electoral standards, Afghans should not wait any longer for the result of their votes and for the chance to move on.

Kawun Kakar is a former United Nations official and deputy chief of staff to the president of Afghanistan. Currently, he is managing partner of Kakar Advocates LLC, an international law firm based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Fraud Allegations against Second VP Karim Khalili Rejected as False

Fraud Allegations  against Second VP Karim Khalili Rejected as False
KABUL - The audio tape produced by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s team alleging involvement of second vice-president Hamid Karim Khalili in electoral fraud is not authentic.
A member of Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai’s camp said Tuesday that the authenticity of the audio was not confirmed and was proven as fake by a credible international institution.
Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah released an audio recording earlier last month and accused Khalili for encouraging vote-rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani, the other contender in the race.
Abdullah’s team claimed that Khalili has assured that the international allies of Afghanistan is committed to use all options for the victory of a specific team in presidential election.
However, Asadullah Sadati, a member of Dr. Ghani’s camp said Tuesday that the publication of audio was aimed at harming the second vice-president Karim Khalili’s personality. (KP)

If a Crisis Emerges IEC is Responsible: Bakhtiyari

If a Crisis Emerges IEC  is Responsible: Bakhtiyari
KABUL - Mohammad Aziz Bakhtiyari, a member of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), is concerned that if the commission announces final results the chance of a crisis may emerge for the nation.
Bakhtiyari warned that if final results are announced and the country does go into a crisis, the IEC and the people behind the fraud will be held responsible.
"Those who create problems for the nation will be held responsible," he said pointing toward the election commission. "The IEC and institutions involved in the fraudulent acts will be held accountable."
The works of the IEC have ended and are now awaiting the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) to finalize their decision on the registered complaints and invalidation of ballots passed on by the IEC. Once concluded the electoral commissions have announced that the final results will be publicized.
"The commission's technical work is completed and details of the outcome have been sent to the ECC," Ahmad Jawid Habibi, acting IEC secretariat, said. "As of now, we are waiting for ECC's final decision."
When the audit process was concluded, IEC announced that votes from 1,124 polling stations were invalidated.
IEC has not mentioned the exact number of votes that were invalidated, but according to reports more than 800,000 votes have been voided, which according to the IEC will not bring significant changes to the final results.
ECC is said to finalize their decision by the end of this week. (Tolonews)

Obama to Talk Afghanistan with World Leaders

Obama to Talk Afghanistan with World Leaders
WASHINGTON - The current situation in Afghanistan would be one of the major topics for discussion when US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry meet world leaders in New York next week.
“We’ll have some conversations about Afghanistan and the path forward there,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told foreign correspondents on Monday.
The meetings will take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. “NATO and the Afghan government are in the final stages of a long-planned security transition,” she said. 
She added the US was in conversations about what its post-2014 presence would look like, even as the Afghans had voted to effect a change in political leadership that would influence the direction of their future.
Harf acknowledged the United Nations was playing a pivotal role in support of the electoral process. “It’s ongoing, but hopefully we will have some resolution soon.  That’s something we’ll have conversations about, of course.”
She reiterated the United States remained focused on Afghanistan on counterterrorism, continuing to take the fight to the enemy.  “We have a number of resources at our disposal in the United States that we can use in a variety of fights.
“We certainly can do more than one thing at once.  So as we focus on terrorist groups where they pop up, whether it’s Yemen or Somalia, Iraq and Syria, we remain focused on ones we know exist and we know are concerning, including in Pakistan.” (Pajhwok)

The Afghan Ministry of Finance (MoF) on Wednesday called into question claims made in a recent article in The Washington Post, which suggested that the Afghan government was desperately seeking an emergency aid package from its western allies in order to pay its employees salaries next month.
The article, which was published on Tuesday in the U.S. based newspaper, quoted the head of the Treasury Department of the Afghan Ministry of Finance, Alhaj Mohammad Aqa, as saying that Kabul has requested a $537 million "bailout" from the U.S. and other international donors.
According to the story, the Afghan government was barely able to pay the September salary payments for its roughly 500,000 employees nationwide, and it could be unable to cover October's payments if the emergency aid package is not delivered.
However, officials from the MoF on Wednesday maintained that the aid package request is not out of emergency, but rather just to meet the full budget deficit for this year.
Yet the MoF did acknowledge that if the current election stalemate between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai continues, the country could in fact face a real financial crisis. "We are facing many financial issues, but we fear that if the electoral stalemate is prolonged further, the situation could become move severe," MoF spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani said.
Many experts, politicians as well as everyday citizens have begun to raise concerns about the economic and financial toll the now six month long election process has taken on the country.
On the other hand, some are less inclined to blame the election. MP Hamida Akbari on Wednesday said the MoF was to blame for the budgetary issues, arguing officials at the Ministry had overreached in their budget for this year and that it had been clear there was not enough money to meet the allocations all along.
"The elections are only a pretence, even in the beginning of the year the Ministry was lacking enough money to finance a number of projects that were included in the budget," Akbari said. "We raised the issue several times and questioned the minister about where the money allocated for funding these projects in the budget is."