A week ago the political system fostered by the United States in Afghanistan was on the brink of collapse, with a new civil war being the likely result. After Afghan election authorities announced the preliminary results of a presidential election runoff, the apparent loser, Abdullah Abdullah, readied what looked to some like a coup, dispatching forces to Kabul police stations and lining up provincial governors to endorse his announcement of a government. Timely phone calls to Mr. Abdullah and rival Ashraf Ghani, first by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and then by President Obama, temporarily defused the crisis. Now Mr. Kerry has brokered an accord that appears to establish a clear plan for arbitrating the dispute over the election and establishing a stable government — a turnaround so remarkable that the U.N. representative in Kabul is calling it “not just a top-notch diplomatic achievement [but] close to a miracle.”
Mr. Kerry himself is rightly cautioning that “we haven’t won yet”; the delicate and complex deal must be implemented over weeks. But his weekend diplomacy in Kabul has created a real chance for a peaceful transition of power this summer, rewarding the millions of citizens who turned out to vote and creating a government that could continue to attract Western support.
The June 14 runoff at first looked like a success, as up to 8 million Afghans voted without significant disruption by the Taliban. But it soon became clear that the balloting was marred by massive fraud, particularly in the southern and eastern provinces where Mr. Ghani has his political base among ethnic Pashtuns. Mr. Abdullah, whose strongest support is from ethnic Tajiks and other minorities in the north, withdrew his recognition of the election process after releasing tape recordings implicating the chief of the election authority in ballot box stuffing.