In a sign that disagreements between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah are likely to overshadow Afghanistan’s immediate future, the leading contenders for the presidency are publicly arguing over an official.
Sibghatullah Ahmadi, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry, returned to work on October 7 a day after he was fired by Ghani for commenting on the latest regional diplomatic effort to resume talks with the Taliban insurgents.
Ahmadi returned to work after a late October 6 statement by Abdullah told him to continue working until the election results are announced.
“Appointments and dismissals at this time can only be linked to elections. Therefore, he can continue working until the election results are finalized,” the statement by Abdullah’s office said.
The statement came hours after presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on October 6 that Ahmadi had been fired. “The former MOFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] acting spokesperson has been fired due to his latest irresponsible comments,” Sediqqi wrote on Twitter.
In the comments Sediqqi alluded to, Ahmadi had praised a recent Taliban trip to neighboring Pakistan.
“We welcome the efforts of all the countries in the region and the world aimed at peace in Afghanistan and particularly appreciate these countries' efforts in terms of facilitating direct talks between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban,” Ahmadi wrote on Twitter on October 3.
But the Afghan presidential palace had opposed the high-profile meetings between a Taliban delegation led by its co-founder and current number two leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and senior Pakistani officials.
“Hosting a group that is still perpetrating violence is against all principles of national relations,” Sediqqi was quoted as saying by Tolo News, a private Afghan television station. “These terrorists who are not committed to peace and whose only stance is war should not be welcomed like this.”
The squabbling over Ahmadi is the latest public disagreement between Ghani and Abdullah. While Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has yet to announce the results of the September 28 presidential election, the two are widely seen as frontrunners. Last week, both claimed victory.
Their bickering has raised the possibility of a repeat of their bitter conflict in 2014 when Washington brokered a power-sharing agreement between them after two rounds of a controversial election.
Their national unity government was never united. The two camps constantly clashed over authority, appointments, and policies as Afghanistan grappled with increasing violence amid a diminishing international military footprint and aid.