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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs