Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The Government Must Convene Loya Jirga

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments last week in Kabul were expected to end the controversy raised by some opposition groups over the legal tenure of the National Unity Government (NUG). NUG leaders welcomed John Kerry’s comments who said the NUG was elected for five years and the expiry of the agreement that led to formation of the current government was not meant as the end of the national unity government of Afghanistan. John Kerry’s clarification came at a time when there are increasing calls on the government to convene the constitutional Loya Jirga. Some even suggested that the end of the deadline for holding the assembly within the agreed time was effectively putting an end to the legitimacy of the NUG. They argued that the government was incompetent and incredible as it failed to hold the Loya Jirga within the timeframe envisaged.
Despite the clarification by the US Secretary of State, the controversy over implementation of the agreement by the NUG is far away and there are no signs to hold the constitutional Loya Jirga in the coming months. Apparent lack of commitment and action over implementation of the post-elections agreement has angered not only those opposition who argue the end of second working year of the NUG as end of the current administration but also the rest of the political spectrum in the country who are worried over political developments and the deteriorating political and security situation. Kerry’s apparent indifference to responsibilities of the NUG leaders for implementation of the agreement and the failure to do it within the agreed timeframe simply added to the angers and seems to be provoking further protests.
A growing number of politicians criticizing the NUG leaders’ failure to implement the agreement and convene the Loya Jirga for considering the recommended changes in the country’s political system. Most recently, former president Hamid Karzai and former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmai Khalilzad, reacted to the ongoing controversy and renewed calls on the government to hold the constitutional Loya Jirga. Karzai accused the United States of violating Afghanistan’s sovereignty. Karzai stressed that he has read the post-presidential election agreement, and it says the constitutional Loya Jirga must be convened within first two years of the national unity government being in power. Khalilzad also suggested that given the controversy over the tenure of  current administration, the Jirga could be held in near future.
The current situation and the widespread political discontent was foreseeable long ago as the government was virtually crippled by the inside rivalries between the stakeholders. The leaders have been struggling from the very beginning to form an efficient administration. However, the NUG failed to settle the power-sharing business as quickly as possible and get to the job to run the country that was already in a chaotic situation due to ongoing war and the declining economy. The infighting within the government deepened political discontents in the political community over the performance of the government and the deteriorating situation in the country. On the other hand, some election-time supporters of the two election camps who had failed to receive government posts after the elections also separated ways and joined camp of the opposition. These figures even went far beyond being opposition in criticizing the government.
The ongoing stalemate over implementation of the post-presidential election agreement and convening of the Loya Jirga is going to further deepen if the NUG leaders fail to take immediate actions for resolving the political deadlock. Afghan government will not be able to afford further intensification of the situation and the political angers and discontents over the implementation of the agreement and the agreed changes to the country’s political system. The recent comments of the US Secretary of State aimed at easing the growing discontents seem to have compounded the situation and do not seem to decrease the calls for implementation of the agreement.
Kerry’s comments in Kabul has come particularly irritating for many in Afghanistan’s political community for Kerry’s silence over implementation of the agreement and commitments of the leaders of the unity government. The current government is product of the agreement that was brokered by the US Secretary of State. Based on the agreement, the Afghan political community expected changes to the current political system of Afghanistan and creation of post of prime minister. However, Kerry’s silence over responsibility of the NUG leaders is not going to help to resolve the challenge but is simply prolonging the infighting the current political challenges.

President Ghani and CEO Abdullah need to plan convening of Loya Jirga to consider the changes in the country’s political system. If the NUG leaders fail to agree on convening the Jirga, it would further deepen the internal differences within the government. Both Ghani and Abdullah need to make the difficult but crucial concessions to reach a consensus for convention of the Jirga and implementation of the agreement.