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No Cabinet Deal As Afghan President Marks 100 Days In Office

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (C) and Abdullah Abdullah.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (C) and Abdullah Abdullah.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani marked his first 100 days in power on January 6, still struggling to form a cabinet with the chief executive of his unity government, Abdullah Abdullah.

The deadlock over senior cabinet positions underlines the challenges Ghani faces under a power-sharing deal reached in September with Abdullah after a disputed election marred by fraud.

Their unity government deal was aimed at averting a civil war.

But the ongoing political deadlock over the details of that deal, including who will take key cabinet posts, threatens to fuel the Taliban insurgency after most foreign troops have withdrawn from the country and handed over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

Ghani, a former U.S. citizen and former World Bank official, had pledged before taking office that he would implement ambitious policy changes within the first 100 days in office.

In his September 29 inaugural speech, Ghani pledged that he would stamp out corruption within the Afghan government.

He also said he would purge Afghanistan’s judiciary of corrupt judges and he called on lawmakers in the Afghan parliament to stop abusing their influence by pressuring ministers for personal favors.

Ghani also called on the Taliban and other militant groups to come to the negotiating table with Afghan officials.

But Taliban leaders rejected those calls and increased their attacks in some parts of the country, including the capital Kabul, as most foreign combat forces were withdrawn by the end of 2014.

Of 140,000 foreign troops once in Afghanistan, about 13,000 remain under a new two-year mission called Resolute Support.

The bulk of the force for that training and support operation, about 10,800 of troops, are from the United States.

On January 4, during an interview with the CBS program 60 Minutes, Ghani said that Washington might want to "reexamine" its timetable for the remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Ghani said: "Deadlines concentrate the mind but deadlines should not be dogmas."

Faced with frequent attacks by Taliban militants, Ghani also said "there should be a willingness to reexamine a deadline" if all sides have "done their best to achieve objectives."

A Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, said on January 5 that the U.S. "plan remains in effect and there have been no changes to the drawdown timeline” as a result of Ghani’s remarks.

Warren said the Pentagon still plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to about 5,000 by the end of 2015 and to draw down to a "normal" U.S. embassy presence in Kabul at the end of 2016.

But many observers inside and outside Afghanistan have expressed concerns about the ability of Afghan government forces to maintain security across the country.

Analysts say President Barack Obama may eventually review the U.S. withdrawal timeline and that Ghani's statements would help explain that decision if he does so.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP


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