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Afghan president-elect and runner-up to hold simultaneous swearing-in ceremonies

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Afghan president-elect and runner-up to hold simultaneous swearing-in ceremonies

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Photo: Rahmat Gul/AP

Afghan President-elect Ashraf Ghani and runner-up Abdullah Abdullah will hold simultaneous swearing-in ceremonies today in Kabul.

The ceremonies will take place following a highly disputed 2019 presidential election. After a five-month review process, the Afghan Independent Election Commission declared Ghani the victor, a move condemned by his opponent. Abdullah also declared victory, claiming that over 15% of votes cast in the low-turnout election were fraudulent.

The dispute comes at an inopportune time for Afghanistan. While the peace deal signed last month by the US and the Taliban was not impaired by the power struggle, coming negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban over the future of the country could be significantly affected by the disunity of the government in Kabul.

Afghan unity will become especially urgent if the Taliban does not abide by the terms of the peace deal, a likely situation according to US intelligence. This week, US President Donald Trump acknowledged that the Taliban could overrun the Afghan government after US troops withdraw, but he did not suggest that the US would remain in Afghanistan if this occurs.

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After US troops pull out, the Taliban will be in a position of relative strength in Afghanistan. Without direct US pressure or the semblance of a united opposition, it is difficult to find a compelling reason why they would be willing to compromise on their political ambitions.

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