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article imageOp-Ed: Rival Afghan candidates assure NATO security bill will be signed

By Ken Hanly     Sep 5, 2014 in Politics
Kabul - Rival Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, assured NATO that they would form a "government of national unity". They also promised as they have in the past to sign a new joint security agreement.
Abdullah Abdullah was the leader in the first Afghan vote but in the runoff he trailed his closest opponent Ashraf Ghani. However, Abdullah claimed that there was massive fraud in the runoff vote. A deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry involved an audit of all the 8 million votes cast in the second round monitored by the UN. Abdullah pulled out of the audit after demands he made went unmet. Ashraf was then asked to withdraw his auditors as well and did so. The audit then continued.
Talks on a national unity government broke down but perhaps they will restart again. Funding of Afghanistan and continuation of a training and advising mission in 2015 were discussed at the recent NATO summit but there was no new Afghan president at the meeting since who that will be has not yet been determined. Ashraf Ghani may very well win when the audit finishes. It is not clear if the losing candidate will accept the results and the nature of any national unity government is not yet agreed upon.
In a message read in Kabul the two candidates said: "We believe in an inclusive political vision. We will form a government of national unity and will honor the participation of our people in the election process."
There are still 44,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Once a joint security agreement is signed a smaller force of about 12,000 will remain mainly in a training and advisory role. However, if a new president is not installed within a month or so, there may not be time to arrange for any troops to stay according to NATO officials.
The recent NATO meeting renewed a commitment to support Afghan forces until 1917. Afghanistan is very much dependent on foreign aid to pay for its army and police who now number 350,000. US aid in 2012 went mainly to support the military: The bulk of the $12.9 billion in aid to Afghanistan—$9.95 billion—went towards spending on military and security assistance to arm and train Afghan military and police forces. Afghan aid often ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians and often does not achieve the goals intended. This article points out numerous problems with US aid programs: In a recent quarterly report, the US special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said that, when security for aid workers is figured in, the total amount of nonmilitary funds Washington has appropriated since 2002 “is approximately $100 billion”—more than the US has ever spent to rebuild a country. That estimate came out in July. Since then, Congress has appropriated another $16.5 billion for “reconstruction.” And all of that has not bought the United States or the Afghans a single sustainable institution or program.
Nevertheless the Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement commits the US to funding "to support Afghanistan's social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation for ten years".
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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