Feb 18, 2020 - World

Ghani declared victor in Afghanistan's disputed presidential election

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo: Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Tuesday's long-awaited announcement that Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani won re-election last September appears likely to deepen, rather than resolve, a tense dispute over the country's presidential election.

Why it matters: The U.S. has reached a truce with the Taliban that, if it holds, will lead to negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. That development comes amid a bitter dispute over who speaks for Afghanistan.

Driving the news: After months of delay, official results show Ghani receiving 50.6% of the vote, a whisker above the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff and 10 points ahead of challenger Abdullah Abdullah.

  • But Abdullah has also claimed victory and accused the electoral commission of "treason." He has a significant power base, and he's threatened to form a parallel government.
  • The U.S. had to intervene in 2014 when Ghani and Abdullah last faced off, brokering a delicate power-sharing deal.

What to watch: "Ghani's victory by such a small margin based on very low turnout is problematic," said Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center think tank.

  • "A leader with many rivals will be taking over with a small mandate, and that could undermine his legitimacy at a moment when he could soon be expected to put together a negotiating team and lead peace talks with the Taliban."

Go deeper

U.S. troops begin withdrawing from Afghanistan

Afghani President Ashraf Ghani. Photo: Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan on Tuesday under the peace agreement signed by the U.S. and Taliban last month, reports the AP.

The state of play: The move comes amid ongoing political tensions in Afghanistan as Kabul hosted two presidential inaugurations on Monday, with both incumbent Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah continuing to insist that they won the last election.

Go deeperArrowMar 10, 2020 - World

U.S. and Taliban announce first step in Afghanistan peace process

Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department confirmed Friday morning the U.S. and Taliban have "reached an understanding" that starts a 7-day "reduction of violence" to be followed by a signed U.S.-Taliban agreement.

Why it matters: The Afghanistan war is the longest war in U.S. history. President Trump has previously pulled out of talks at the last minute, only to restart them.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 21, 2020 - World

Afghanistan president rejects Taliban prisoner swap in blow to U.S. deal

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani during a press conference on March 1. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that he will not release 5,000 Taliban prisoners ahead of peace talks next week, as laid out in a peace agreement that the U.S. signed with the Taliban on Saturday, according to AP.

Why it matters: Ghani’s public disagreement with the contents of the agreement presents the first major hurdle in its implementation, which is crucial to ending America’s longest war.

Go deeperArrowMar 1, 2020 - World