The US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks on the legal tenure of the National Unity Government (NUG) came as a relief for the leaders of the national unity government whose administration’s legitimacy was being questioned with its failure to deliver the agreement that led to the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG). Recently, a number of major opposition groups in Afghanistan were questioning legitimacy and efficiency of government arguing that the leaders of the government have failed to implement the political reforms agreed in the power-sharing pact. The agreement states that the president has committed to convene the Loya Jirga for amending the constitution and creating a post of prime minister. NUG seems to have little time for delivering the reforms agreed in the agreement while there is no consensus among the government leaders.
In recent months, there have been increasing pressures with some opposition groups calling for salvaging the country through holding new elections. A number of high-profile political figures, the political grouping of Council for Stability and Protection of Afghanistan and some current and former government officials including President Ghani’s advisors openly express doubts to credibility and efficiency of NUG. This is while the government is struggling to deal with the insurgency and contain the Taliban’s post-2014 offensives.
On the other hand, there are profound differences between President Ghani and CEO Abdullah on important issues such as reforming the electoral commissions, changing the government system, dismissal and appointments in the government and peace talks with the Taliban. Many remain deeply pessimistic about the capability and sustainability of the government. John Kerry’s visit to Afghanistan came at a time when the countdown for the September deadline has started. The NUG will be two years old in September but no major step is taken to restructure the government through convening Loya Jirga for amending the constitution.
John Kerry’s remarks were clear that the agreement was not meant to bind the creation of the post of prime minister to the legal tenure of NUG. The comments of the US Secretary of State were crucially important for resolving the controversy over the reform deadline and the legal tenure. The US is the main supporter of Afghanistan who is propping up the Afghan government through providing the required funding for the government and security forces. The comments were particularly aimed at dissuading the Afghan political spectrum of undermining NUG at a time when it is struggling to deal with the Taliban insurgency and dealing with other challenges.
The comments came particularly as boosting President Ghani’s stance over the power-sharing and implementation of the agreement that led to formation of the current government. President Ghani seemed to be unhappy with the 50-50 power-sharing between the two leaders from the very first days of the formation of the government. He still seems to be reluctant to providing legitimacy to the current mechanism of power-sharing through promoting the post of Chief Executive to that of prime minister. Government officials say that the end of the power-sharing agreement would not be the end of NUG; however, they remain vague in their comments over the role and legal status of the post of Chief Executive of the government.
The leaders of the unity government insist that they are committed to bring reforms. However, they seem to be far from having an agreement over the issue and seem to continue to play the game on. While the two leaders remain unable to resolve the issue, they still continue to remain cautious about going much beyond that could threaten the whole power-sharing agreement. In fact, both the leaders seem to be tolerating such a stalemate because of fears that their power-sharing agreement would further endangered and the credibility and legitimacy of NUG further undermined. On the US part, the relative political stability in Afghanistan is a priority for the United States while the country is preparing presidential elections.
However, the current stalemate over the implementation of the agreement that led to the formation of the NUG cannot last for long. There would be unexpected challenges for NUG if it fails to deliver the changes in the political system. The leaders need to realize potential challenges that would further undermine NUG and deteriorate political instability in the country. They need to know that the implementation of the agreement is a key for success of the government in dealing with the Taliban insurgency and other economic and political challenges. The United States needs to weigh in and put pressures on the leaders of the Afghan government to bring the expected changes in the country’s political system.