As Expected, Kerry’s Power Sharing Agreement in Afghanistan Falling Apart

Well, that didn’t take long. On Friday, John Kerry made a second pass at getting Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani to make nice. This time he even produced a signed document (probably) to go along with the happy photos. And then yesterday the Washington Post announced that Ghani already is backing down on the whole shared power concept:

Ashraf Ghani, one of two candidates competing to become Afghanistan’s president, said Tuesday that the deadline to finish a vote recount is slipping and that a U.S.-brokered agreement for the rivals to form a joint government afterward does not mean the winner will fully share power with the loser.

Speaking to foreign journalists at his fortified compound in the capital, Ghani appeared to be trying to tamp down a surge of discontent among his supporters and allies, many of whom are reportedly upset that he agreed under U.S. pressure to a full recount of ballots from the troubled presidential runoff in June and the formation of a “unity” government with his rival.

On Friday, Ghani restated those pledges during a visit by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. But on Tuesday, he sought to clarify that he has not agreed to a power-sharing agreement with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Ghani said the winner will appoint the loser “by decree” as a chief executive to serve “at the discretion of the president.” Abdullah has demanded more authority if he loses.

After a false start earlier, the work on developing the real power sharing agreement was slated to start today:

The joint committee assigned by the two presidential candidates and expected to hash out the details of their power-sharing agreement is expected to begin its work on Wednesday, according to representatives of both campaigns.

The joint committee was initially expected to start work last Saturday, a day after the three article declaration about the broad structure of the national unity government was signed by both candidates. However, disagreements over the join committee were said to have stalled the start of negotiations until now.

Abullah Abdullah’s First Vice President, Mohammad Khan, has said on that the committee will have a total of thirty members representing both candidates. According to Fizullah Zaki, a spokesman for Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai’s team, both teams nominated 15 representatives on Tuesday.

With 15 negotiators on each side, I would expect that the first week or two of the negotiations will resolve such crucial issues as the shape of the table and the length of the breaks between sessions. They might also want to make a “no punching” rule, as there appears to have been another fight today while ballots were being reviewed.  It’s hard to see how Kerry could make a third trip to put the power sharing back on course since the first two have been such spectacular failures.

Combining the poor outlook for a power sharing agreement with the continued disruptions in auditing ballots puts the next “deadline” in a huge amount of doubt:

The NATO coalition will be forced to make a decision on its continued role in Afghanistan without a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) in place if the Afghan presidential election does not meet a conclusion soon, NATO Secretary-General Andres Fog Rasmussen warned on Monday.

The senior NATO official indicated continued military support, including a post-withdraw troop presence for training and advising purposes, as well as broader financial aid to Afghanistan, would likely be impossible if the BSA is not signed by a new Afghan president before the NATO summit begins on September 4.

“Soon we will have to take tough decisions, because if there is not a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning … very soon,” Rasmussen told Reuters on Monday.

Obama has a very easy way out here. If there still is no resolution to the election by the time of the NATO summit, he can paint the decision to withdraw completely from Afghanistan as a NATO decision rather than a US decision. Yes, a number of earlier deadlines in this process have been ignored, but it is very hard to see how NATO would agree to remain in Afghanistan without a BSA signed by a new president. Although the neocons likely would return to Iraq-era “no permission slip needed” rhetoric urging Obama to keep troops there even without any other NATO allies, I don’t seen how he would do that.

We are less than a month away from what almost certainly will be a decision to withdraw fully from a war that has been one of the most badly managed efforts in our country’s history. We have squandered about a trillion dollars, killed untold numbers of civilians, lost far too many troops and will leave a country that is wracked by devastation and a huge increase in corruption. Obama will be blamed for losing Afghanistan just as surely as he is now being blamed for losing Iraq, but in both cases, the entire country should share the blame for empowering amoral leaders who know only death, destruction and corruption.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
18 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    “Such crucial issues as the shape of the table”. Well put. Which calls to mind, of course, the classic comment on that issue during the Vietnam War peace talks: “They can have any table they want, so long as there are no chairs. I guarantee you the work will be done quickly.”

  2. bloopie2 says:

    Are we leaving behind ‘equipment’ as we did in Iraq, which will then fall under the control of … whoever ? God forbid, for if so, then this ‘withdrawal’ will be only temporary – we’ll have to go back and fight for it, no? Or would that be, fight against it? Gosh, it’s just so hard to tell whose side to be on any more.

  3. JTMinIA says:

    To the extent that NATO is just the US with a bit of help, I can see why NATO wouldn’t stay without a BSA, but aren’t there countries that don’t need a BSA because they don’t kill (as many) civilians and don’t torture folks (on their own)?

  4. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    I know this comment is somewhat off-topic, but I think it needs to be discussed. There is one downside of the so-called global war on terror that has not gotten adequate attention. Over the last decade Americans have witnessed the militarization of their local police departments. Its earliest beginnings were in the war on drugs, but it really got underway when several large police departments, including the NYPD, began reaching out to Israeli security firms post-9/11 for advice on how to manage their perceived terrorist threats. Then, the DOD began offering surplus military gear to local police departments at bargain-basement prices. The process was further accelerated when many returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, some with PTSD, decided they wanted to become policemen. Even worse, the policemen who hadn’t served overseas wanted to show the ones who had gone that they could be as badass as they were. The “fruits” of these processes are now on display in Staten Island, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri. Many policemen now view minority communities and Muslims as populations they need to constantly monitor and control. In many ways the police now view blacks, Latinos, and Muslims in big cities the same way the military views the Taliban in Afghanistan. That explains why we saw a group of policemen is full military-style gear pointing automatic rifles at a young black man with his hands up in Ferguson yesterday. We now know the final price America will pay for its tragic misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan: the loss of our freedoms.

    • Jim White says:

      Just as the TV show 24 softened up the American public to the idea of torture, way back when the TV show SWAT brought us the idea of police militarization. It dates back to 1975, so this process has been building for a long time.

      • TarheelDem says:

        J. Edgar Hoover in the 1930s established relationships with the radio and movie producers to hype his G-Men. The government influence in this genre of drama has only grown since then, thanks to producers like jack Webb who expanded relationships into the LAPD.

        Over the years, these shows have accustomed viewers to “bend the rules” violators of Constitutional guarantees of abusive power exactly and precisely when the labor movement and civil right movements were gaining popular influence.

        Government budget for this sort of PR of police and military have only gotten bigger and the relationships more extravagant. Witness Zero Dark Thirty.

        Its not institutional advertising; it is promoting a particular ideological agenda on the taxpayers dime and media collusion.

    • ffein says:

      All so true….very well stated. And so disturbing. Today I misread a headline “Police Use Tear Gas on Protesters” as “Police Use Fear Gas On Protesters.”

    • P J Evans says:

      They’ve lost the support and trust of pretty much everyone under 30, and they’re working hard at losing the support and trust of everyone over that age who isn’t GOP-T. In my area (mostly white, and not as liberal as you might think), it’s pretty much to the point of only call the police if it’s life-and-death, because they’re not going to show up if there isn’t blood shed or shots fired. And maybe not even then.

      • bloopie2 says:

        And when your daily interaction with the police amounts to a cop pulling over your car for expired license plates and making you tow it home and not drive it until you get new plates, at a cost of two hundred dollars, and he says to you, “I’m being nice to you – I could have had it impounded” – well, you tend to lose any feeling of respect or affection for them. I really don’t think they are there to serve the public any longer; I think they feel that we are there to serve them.

        • P J Evans says:

          Especially when they give a ride home to, say, Mel Gibson, instead of making him spend time in the holding cell for DUI. (Registration is something I’m careful about, along with insurance. I thought some nasty things about the idjit, some years back, who stole the sticker off my plate. It was actually cheap to replace, being midway through its year.)

  5. Garrett says:

    I want to know if Rashid Dostum is on one side of the power sharing committee, and Atta Muhammad Nur on the other.

    Also, I think the New York Times tends to side with the Abdullah camp about things. And the Post with Ghani.

  6. Garrett says:

    AAN has some documents.

    This difference in rhetoric, how certain a Prime Minister Executive Prime Minister is, is interesting:

    July 12: “The President will convene a Loya Jirga, and initiate a process of amending the constitution, to establish the position of an Executive Prime Minister within two years.’

    August 8: “convening within two years a Loya Jirga to consider establishing the position of an Executive Prime Minister”.

  7. Don Bacon says:

    Powerprofit sharing in Afghanistan: –You take the opium profits, I get the construction kickbacks, you take …..etc. Those are tough decisions.
    But the Americans and their puppet Europeans have problems too: “Soon we will have to take tough decisions, … ” Such is the lot of colonial masters, for whom there is no end of tough decisions concerning this mountainous, backward, land full of illiterate people about which these Westerners know nothing and where they have accomplished less than nothing, except to make many men rich.
    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    Have done with childish days–
    The lightly proferred laurel,
    The easy, ungrudged praise.
    Comes now, to search your manhood
    Through all the thankless years
    Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
    The judgment of your peers!

  8. bevin says:

    “.. I think the New York Times tends to side with the Abdullah camp about things. And the Post with Ghani.”

    Which pretty well conveys the bogus nature of this Punch and Judy show of an election: just because they hate each other it doesn’t mean they aren’t puppets.

    • Garrett says:

      I disagree a bit. The political and ideological and interest group differences between the two are substantial.

      Put them both in the same overall power dynamic, and the differences between them get muted, it’s true.

  9. Don Bacon says:

    I’ll go with Abdullah Abdullah and his Hope and Change alliance. It has a nice ring to it, know what I mean?
    Plus A-A is the favorite of Bernard-Henri Lévy, who helped bring us Libya.
    “Abdullah Abdullah… Remember this name…Recall it, if you have forgotten it.
    For Afghanistan and its friends, it is perhaps the very last card left to play. ..Abdullah Abdullah… Remember this name. Recall it, if you have forgotten it. For Afghanistan and its friends, it is perhaps the very last card left to play.”

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