Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, appeared close to ending a months-long political crisis that has undermined peace talks with the Taliban and the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abdullah said in a series of tweets on May 1 that progress in negotiations with Ghani to end the political impasse “reached tentative agreement on a range of principles.”
He did not provide details of the agreement.
Abdullah, who previously served as Afghanistan's chief executive under a U.S.-brokered power-sharing deal with Ghani, has refused to recognize the results of last year’s September presidential election, which was marred by low voter turnout and allegations of fraud.
After much delay, the Afghan election commission in December announced that Ghani had won the election with just over 50 percent of the votes needed to avoid a runoff. Abdullah secured 39 percent.
Instead of recognizing the results, Abdullah declared himself president, although the international community recognizes Ghani.
The political crisis has undermined Kabul’s position ahead of planned intra-Afghan peace talks at a time when the Taliban is increasing attacks despite a deal it signed with the United States in February.
It also comes as Afghanistan struggles to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which according to official numbers has infected 2,335 people and killed another 69. The real number of infections is believed to be much higher.
“We hope to finalize the political agreement at the earliest so that we can pay undivided attention to tackling [the] COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring a just, dignified & lasting peace, & confronting the security & economic challenges in a spirit of national unity & solidarity,” Abdullah said on Twitter.
To apply pressure on Ghani and Abdullah, the United States announced in March that it was cutting $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan. The European Union has also said the lack of progress to end the two rivals' feud could lead to aid cuts.
Meanwhile, NBC News reported this week that the combination of the coronavirus and U.S. frustration over the slow pace of Afghan peace talks has hastened calls by President Donald Trump to pull troops out of Afghanistan or consolidate forces on bases.