Afghanistan has missed the September 2 deadline set for an inauguration of its new head of state after two major presidential candidates failed to agree on the results of disputed election. With no leader to form a national unity government and Taliban militants’ biggest attacks in years Afghanistan is turning into a new major threat just four months before the US forces' pullout from the country.
Studio guest Dmitry Polikanov, Vice-President of the PIR Center, Veronika Eschbacher, political observer at Wiener Zeitung daily (Vienna), Ivan Safranchuk, editor-in-chief, "Great game: politics, business and security in Central Asia" (talking from Kabul) shared their opinions with Radio VR.
How do you turn around this to a constructive solution? Do you feel like it needs international mediation?
Veronika Eschbacher: I wouldn’t say it is needed, it is already in place. So, there are the negotiators and the UN special representative is involved in all the negotiations that are going on. And we have seen that the US Secretary Kerry has been there twice. So, I don’t think that we can say that somebody should go there and try to mediate. There already are people in place who are trying to do this.
One of the candidates walked out of the UN audit of the second round of elections, basically, sabotaging this part of the international mediation mechanism. How do you get this mechanism workout a sustainable solution before the US troops leave?
Veronika Eschbacher: The party that walked out was the party of Abdullah. And as far as I have heard from his camp, they do not feel listened by the UN. One has to go and assure them that their voices will be heard and that they are part of the political process. But, on the other hand, we must not forget that it can be kind of a political game as well. In Afghanistan you always have to consider various options. And certainly, by getting out of the process. He raises his political leverage to get more out of the negotiations.
If we look at the situation from the broader perspective. This week we’ve seen the NATO summit in Wales being at the top of the agenda. Don’t you think that this is the issue which would make NATO and Russia put aside their differences and understand that there is a very serious common threat in the region which has to be faced together?
Veronika Eschbacher: Afghanistan is not the only crisis at the moment. And there is no chaos currently in Afghanistan. 80 percent of the people live in a more or less decent security situation. Of course, the situation has not become better over the summer and the Taliban is challenging the Afghan national security forces on a daily basis. But that has been expected. They know that the US’s and international troops are withdrawing. But I don’t see that Afghanistan currently is such a big crisis that it could unite NATO and Russia.
Everybody in Afghanistan knows that development is going to be a bumpy road, that it is not going to be easy. But even though they are a bit disillusioned at the moment, they think that they can make it and overcome the crisis and it will not go back into what it has been earlier.
What is the sentiment on the ground?
Ivan Safranchuk: I would say that in the recent weeks there were very intensive political debates inside Afghanistan, inside Kabul. However, right now these debates did not produce any visible results. The tension continues. But I would not say that it is exactly a chaos. There are demonstrations in Kabul nearly every day. There are people gathering with some demands, but it is far from being a chaos at the moment. It is a legitimate political process, although it is going on in the streets. So, it is some sort of the freedom of expression of views.
However, I can tell you that exactly yesterday in the late evening the audit process for the elections was finished. So, by now all votes of the second round are audited and I think that in the near future the independent election commission will make its final decision on the winner and will publicize this decision. So, I think that quite soon we will have the final legal results of the elections. That doesn’t mean that a political struggle around the elections will be finished, because Abdullah has already declared that he would not accept the final result. So, I think some political discussion will continue.
However, I think that the chances for a compromise there are shrinking. I would say that a month ago there were more chances for a compromise and some sort of power sharing. Now, I think that the chances for that are shrinking and probably the declared president will try to take more power into his hands, because then he will bargain from the position of being a legitimate president, at least from the legal perspective.
There is a lot of talk that the Taliban will come back. How serious that threat is?
Ivan Safranchuk: I think that there is some confusion on what was the position of the Taliban in the second round. Some experts are declaring that the Taliban was urging Pashtun population of the south and the east to come to the voting stations. Others are declaring that, no, the Taliban still was against the elections and it does not like independent election commission.
I'm a little bit confused on that myself, because there is the evidence of both – in some areas the Taliban supporting the second round and in some areas, in the districts which are under the control of the Taliban, there was close to zero voting and the boxes were empty. So, there is some confusion about it. But I think that the Taliban will also look for some political solution with the new president for a while, at least with one of the candidates. I think that if Dr. Adbullah comes, the Taliban will probably be tougher, if Ghani comes, I think the Taliban will look for some political solution.