Last Monday, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani was elected president for a second time in the Arg. Two weeks earlier, the Independent Electoral Commission (ICE) had declared him the winner of the previous presidential elections. These had taken place in October and, strangely enough, it had taken five months for all votes to be counted, while less than twenty percent of eligible voters had actually gone to the ballot box. Similar to previous elections, there was an accusation of electoral fraud. But this time, main opponent Abdullah Abdullah, who in the past has always been bent, did not want to accept the election result and caused a break by having himself sworn in as president at the same time as Ghani.
Read correctly. There are now two presidents in Afghanistan. This not only causes many jokes among Afghans, but also abroad. Shortly after the double swearing - in, Trevor Noah suggested on his Daily Show that the two presidents could work day and night shifts.
But so amusing, the current developments in Kabul seem to be: The situation is deadly serious and can contribute to a further escalation. Two weeks ago, the US signed a withdrawal agreement with the Afghan Taliban in Qatar. The terms of the deal included intra-Afghan talks aimed at guaranteeing a longer-term peace in the country after the withdrawal of NATO troops. These talks were supposed to take place at this Moment, but they do not, as the political elites in Kabul are more divided than ever before. Ironically, it was those very elites who repeatedly pointed out in the past that the Taliban were not a united group. But now the exact opposite is the case.
One country, three governments
According to this, there are currently three different governments in Afghanistan: those of Ghani and Abdullah, as well as the so-called Islamic Emirate of the Taliban, which may currently control more areas than the two presidents. There are several reasons why the current crisis occurred. Ghani’s supporters blame Abdullah first and foremost and accuse him of refusing to recognize the official election result. Of course, the whole thing is not that simple.
The so-called Independent Electoral Commission does not seem to be independent again, but acts as an instrument of Ghani. At least critics claim this, including international observers such as US Professor Thomas H. Johnson of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, who has written a long report on “Ghani’s election falsification” in which he accuses Ashraf Ghani’s Team of targeted and long-planned election manipulation.
Similar allegations were already in 2014 and 2009. In all cases, Abdullah emerged as the loser. In the 2014 presidential election, Abdullah was initially in first place. After a runoff election against Ghani, he lost. Even then, the dispute escalated temporarily until it was finally “resolved” by then US Secretary of State John Kerry after several appearances in Kabul. For Abdullah, the post of CEO was created, a kind of head of government that does not exist according to the Afghan constitution. Ghani was appointed President, not elected. Selection instead of election, literally. In 2009, Abdullah lost to former President Hamid Karzai. Even then there was talk of electoral fraud.
Ironically, it is Karzai who is currently finding the right words and pointing the finger at the Americans. They were responsible for the misery and could have solved the Dilemma prematurely if there had been the Will, and in fact this is not so wrong. The American Democracy Project has failed in Afghanistan. The reason for this is not the simple people, because they were aware of their responsibility and always tried to go to the polls despite Taliban threats. It is the corrupt elites who have come to power thanks to Western aid and are not ready for fair elections. They always see their positions of power, above all access to foreign funds, threatened – and they seem to accept everything for the continued preservation of the same. Even a fragmentation of the state.
It is certainly not wrong to call Afghanistan a failed state in 2020. Where this will lead, remains open. An internal Afghan reconciliation, which would be urgently needed, is still not in sight. Instead, there is an ongoing divide-and-Rule game that, thanks to foreign actors, is played on the shoulders of the Afghans. The current events in Kabul are reminiscent of historical scenarios that took place around two hundred years ago. Even then, several princes declared themselves the new king at the same time and fought each other, while they were supported by different sides.
In Afghanistan, the great Game was played between the British and Russians, the Cold War between East and West and, since 2001, a “War on Terror” in which the warring parties have become more inscrutable, switching sides fluently or sometimes acting on several sides. While Ghani’s swearing-in was accompanied by Western representatives, above all the Americans, representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey were found at Abdullah’s ceremony. This doesn’t have to mean much. However, it does mean something, namely that the Great Game of the 21st century. In Afghanistan at the beginning of the 20th century, there is still no end in sight.