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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs