Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014,  in Kabul as rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah, center, talks to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Kabul as rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah, center, talks to Secretary of State John Kerry. (Steven Beardsley/Stars and Stripes)

KABUL — Afghanistan’s long post-election stalemate appeared to be nearing a resolution Tuesday after negotiations between the two presidential candidates on a power-sharing deal.

Representatives of both campaigns and the office of current President Hamid Karzai said a deal was imminent, but none of them revealed details. At issue is a proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry — accepted in principle by both candidates last month — to establish a chief executive position in the government that would be chosen by the losing candidate.

"In the past several days we have been meeting continuously," said Fazal Rahman Orya, an official with Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign. "We are on the verge of a deal."

A spokesman for rival candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was more cautious.

“Agreements have been made, but they have not been formalized. There is an optimism that the deal will be signed in the very near future,” spokesman Sulaiman Khpalwak said.

Both men said some details still needed to be worked out, but that they would not affect the outcome.

The hopeful signals for a deal followed a meeting Monday with Karzai, who urged both candidates to speed up their efforts to form a government of national unity, a government statement said.

“The presidential candidates expressed optimism to soon sign their agreement in the presence of President Karzai and other prominent national figures,” the statement said.

The main differences in the past were centered on the powers of the chief executive position. Abdullah’s campaign wanted the position to head the Cabinet, while Ghani’s was opposed, saying it would lead to a situation where there would be “two presidents.”

Khpalwak said outstanding differences about the chief executive’s authority had been settled, but did not provide details.

The U.S. proposal to form a unity government ensued from allegations of massive fraud in the election. In the first round of voting in April, Abdullah led, but did not have enough votes to avoid a runoff. Ghani was far ahead, according to preliminary results, after the second round poll June 14th, leading to a U.N.-supervised audit of the 8 million ballots cast.

The audit was completed last week, but the results have not yet been announced because Abdullah’s campaign has disagreed on the count.

The impasse and resulting delay in the transfer of power from Karzai have sparked worries about Afghanistan’s political stability at a time of increased insurgent activity ahead of the coming withdrawal of all NATO combat troops by the end of the year.

The intent is to retain a small force of nearly 10,000 American troops into next year, primarily as advisers and trainers. But that is dependent on the signing of a bilateral security agreement laying out the terms of a continued U.S. presence. Karzai has refused to sign it. Both Ghani and Abdullah say they will, but until one is declared president, that agreement and a similar one with NATO remain in limbo.

Younas Fakor, an Afghan political analyst, said agreement on a unity government is key.

“Looking at the current situation of the country, a political agreement on the national unity government was absolutely essential,” he said. “The (candidates) irresponsibly caused a lot of unnecessary problems to the country by dragging out their dispute.”

Fakor proposed that the U.N. and independent Afghan experts form a commission to monitor implementation of a possible deal. “Otherwise we’ll have constant bickering about it in coming years,” he said.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now