Afghanistan’s two rival presidents reach a deal

May 21, 2020

ASHRAF GHANI remains president of Afghanistan, while his eternal rival for the job, Abdullah Abdullah, who disputes the result of the election held last September, gets yet another consolation prize. That, it seems, is the upshot of a deal finally agreed on May 17th, after months of posturing and haggling, including an absurd moment in March when both men had themselves sworn in. Dr Abdullah’s new job, fittingly enough, is to advance the peace negotiations he has been distracting attention from over the past few months.

It is all grimly reminiscent of the deal struck five years ago, when Mr Ghani narrowly defeated Dr Abdullah for the top job, amid similar acrimony. Once again Western governments, fearing that the row would ruin their plans for peace, had to twist the arms of the two rivals into sharing power. America, exasperated by the haggling, cut aid by $1bn in the hope of focusing minds.

Mr Ghani, a former World Bank economist, will remain president for a second and final term, ending in 2024. Dr Abdullah, a sharp-suited former eye specialist and foreign minister, will choose half the cabinet and take a new role overseeing talks with the insurgents of the Taliban, in the hope of ending the long civil war.

That is a notional demotion from 2014, when a power-sharing deal brokered by America gave Dr Abdullah...

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