News / Asia

US Ambassador: Deadlines Loom in Afghanistan

US Ambassador: Deadlines Loom in Afghanistani
X
VOA News
August 18, 2014 8:08 PM
As a recount of votes in the Afghanistan presidential election grinds into a third month, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said several crucial policy decision deadlines loom. Cunningham spoke to VOA's Afghan Service at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul about the speed of the election audit, the timetable for inaugurating a new president and the upcoming NATO summit in September.
Watch video of VOA's Afghan Service interview with U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham

As a recount of votes in the Afghanistan presidential election grinds into a third month, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said several crucial policy decision deadlines loom.

Cunningham spoke to VOA's Afghan Service at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul about the speed of the election audit, the timetable for inaugurating a new president and the upcoming NATO summit in September.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said late last week that he predicts the country will have a new leader by the end of August, when he plans to leave office.

Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States that allows for a foreign force to stay in the country to train, advise and equip Afghan security forces after 2014. He said the decision to sign the agreement rests with his predecessor.

Both presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have said they would sign the agreement.

Ambitious goal

Cunningham said that while the goal of having a president in place in a few weeks is ambitious, “it’s an important goal to keep.”

The NATO summit, scheduled for Sept. 4-5 in Wales and hosted by England, is important because the nations had hoped to celebrate the upcoming withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan and the move toward a smaller, advisory force that would train Afghan security forces.

Having a president inaugurated by early September, Cunningham said, would be an important opportunity for a new president to represent Afghanistan and a new government, as well as reconnect with the international community.

But he also voiced concern that the goal can be met.

“We’re doing everything we can to speed up the audit and to encourage the political discussions between the candidates and their teams to try to prepare, if we can, to achieve that goal. If we can’t, it will be a lost opportunity. But it’s possible,” Cunningham said.

He said the audit of the June 14 presidential runoff “has not moved as rapidly as we had hoped because of the complexity of the procedures and the scope of the audit itself, which is really unique and unprecedented.”

Last month, after months of turmoil and voter fraud allegations, Abdullah and Ghani agreed to an audit of all 8 million votes cast.

Unity government

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Afghanistan twice, including early this month, to meet with Abdullah and Ghani to press for a resolution to the contested election.

During that meeting, both candidates, with Kerry's mediation, agreed to form a unity government ahead of the NATO summit.

Cunningham said the U.S. continues to work with the candidates.

“On the political side, we’re encouraged that the candidates have organized themselves, they have an agenda, they have established their joint commission with working groups, and they’re now beginning to work through the issues that they need to work through in defining a lot of the terms about what their future cooperation will be,” he said.

“I’m encouraged because I think the candidates understand how important it is that they find a way to come to an agreement that will provide for cooperation between people who frankly have been very strong competitors, and it’s hard to shift from competition to cooperation,” Cunningham said.

“But it has to happen for the next government, the president to be effective and to have broad support of the Afghan people,” he added.

If the recount should not conclude by the end of August, Cunningham said there are two consequences, the main being that Afghanistan loses a chance to represent a new phase in its government at the NATO summit.

In a larger sense, he said the Afghan people just want to see the political process concluded.

NATO's role

A bigger, more pressing issue as the presidential election recount goes on regards the status of NATO.

NATO is to end its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. It plans to leave behind a smaller force to train and advise Afghan security forces.

However, to stay beyond 2014, NATO said it needs the new president to sign agreements with the U.S. and NATO, providing a legal basis for foreign troops to stay.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said if the election gridlock is not resolved, and a new president does not sign the BSA, and a companion NATO agreement, he will soon be forced to decide on a complete withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan.

The delays in signing the agreements have sharply reduced the time required for planning the post-2014 mission, causing concern at NATO.

Cunningham said he couldn’t speculate how long NATO could forestall such a decision. Although, last week, Rasmussen told Reuters the situation was becoming critical.

“There’s no fixed date,” Cunningham said. “But there is a time in the real world where both we and our partners will have to start making decisions. … We have real-world planning considerations that will come into play in the coming weeks.”

Cunningham said he remained confident that the recount would be finished and a decision made regarding a continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

View the interview on VOA Pashto or VOA Dari.

The interview was conducted by Rahim Gul Sarwan in Kabul.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mike
August 19, 2014 5:11 AM
"He said the decision to sign the agreement rests with his predecessor."

Surely you mean "successor?"

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs