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Editorial: The carrot-and-stick approach

Afghanistan arrives at another grim milestone amid the political wrangling between rival Afghan leaders – President Ashraf Ghani and self-proclaimed president Abdullah Abdullah. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to end the political impasse or reach a power-sharing deal between the feuding leaders, who both claim to be president, during his brief foray to Kabul, and thus returned to US empty-handed. Reportedly, Pompeo tried to resolve differences between the two rivals and convince them to form an inclusive government, but his efforts apparently yielded no fruitful result. Availing of its economic power in the current desperate situation, the US used its card of aid as a tool to end the Kabul political row. Regretting the behavior of the feuding Afghan leaders, Pompeo announced the US would cut its aid to Afghanistan by $1billion with a further $1bn could be slashed next year. This move by the US blackened Afghanistan’s reputation as a state and is indeed a big slap on the faces of these leaders. Having witnessed the fiasco of the previous administration of the National Unity Government (NUG) shared by the same foes, Afghans became fed up with them. Thus, these leaders in their demagogic addresses would rule out the possibility of coming together this time around in the 2019 election. Nevertheless, we now see that at the behest of American overlords, these leaders have agreed to power-sharing yet again, but a deal between them is stalled as both are hell-bent on getting the best of the situation. As evident from President Ghani’s remarks, he is willing to give his rival Abdullah Abdullah a fundamental role in the country’s peace process, and his allies key roles in the cabinet but his political foe wants a change in the constitution overnight, something he said he couldn’t do. Currently, the strong push by the US to reach an agreement between these leaders stems from the fact that this leadership failure in Afghanistan has thrown a wrench into the peace process. Therefore, because the political rift is threatening the Taliban deal, the US has resorted to using a carrot-and-stick approach. Given Afghanistan’s dependence on foreign aid, this cut in assistance would come at a severe cost to the country despite President Ghani’s playing down of the situation and assurance that it wouldn’t have any impact on key sectors and departments of the country. The aid-slashing move by the US would impress upon these leaders that it is the US which holds the upper hand and that they have no choice but to compromise and shun their unrealistic demands. But the extreme disappointment for us is in the failure to ensure the credibility of presidential polls and decisions of electoral bodies, meaning that democracy has failed in Afghanistan and that only by means of power-sharing deals and pressure tools, the power-thirsty Afghan leaders could be satiated. This pressure tool used by the US will soon bring these leaders to their senses and force them to mend fences by forming an inclusive government, which will sadly have no electoral legitimacy or lawfulness.

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