The United Nations has asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai to once again delay the inauguration of a new president as an audit of disputed ballots goes on amid posturing by the candidates and sometimes physical fighting among their supporters.
On Thursday, the U.N.’s representative in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, briefed Karzai on the status of the review, which the U.N. is overseeing after one of the candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, alleged massive fraud was committed on behalf of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani.
Karzai and Western officials had been adamant about having the audit completed and a new president named in time for the winner to attend a crucial NATO summit next week, where leaders will decide on international commitments of troops and funds for Afghanistan after the end of the year. But Kubis told Karzai he expects the process won’t be completed any sooner than about Sept. 10.
Kubis insisted that “steady progress” was being made “with strict impartiality, professionalism and with even greater vigilance,” a press release said. But Kubis cautioned that a thorough review would take time.
Thursday’s meeting came a day after Abdullah pulled his support from the audit, saying it was not capable of finding the fraud he says occurred. The U.N. then asked Ghani’s observers to recuse themselves from the process as well.
On Thursday, Abdullah spokesman Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Rahimi told Stars and Stripes that the delay does not affect the campaign’s boycott. But he said Abdullah was meeting personally with Ghani and that representatives had met with the U.N. mission earlier in the day.
“If they take into account our reservations, then we are willing to rejoin the process,” he said. “But we will not rejoin the process if it just legitimizes fraud.”
The delays, boycotts and threats have thrown doubt on the future of the international presence in Afghanistan.
American military officials are waiting for a new president to sign a deal that would lay out the terms for keeping nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in the country past the end of the year. Foreign donors who provide the billions of dollars upon which the Afghan government depends have said that a peaceful transfer of power is a prerequisite for further aid.
It is not known who will represent Afghanistan at the Sept. 4-5 summit, but NATO officials say they have extended an invitation and that it is up to the Afghan government to decide whom they will send. Karzai’s spokesman has said the current president will not be attending.