Afghanistan faces its most serious crisis in a decade. This time, however, it is not caused by an emboldened Taliban but by growing friction between the two contenders for president. Only a determined effort by the United States and other NATO allies can prevent an escalation into violence. Many Westerners and Afghans embraced this year’s presidential election as an opportunity to move on from President Hamid Karzai, whose relationship with Western leaders dramatically deteriorated in recent years. But the election results have been contentious. The first round of voting was in April. No candidate secured 50% of the vote, though former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah led with 45%. The two candidates with the largest shares, Mr. Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, went to a run-off on June 14. The preliminary results showed Mr. Ghani ahead with roughly 56% of the vote, yet allegations of fraud mounted.
In July, the candidates agreed to a recount under the auspices of the United Nations and with the direct involvement of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Still the impasse between the Abdullah and Ghani camps has persisted. Now some senior Afghan political and security officials have considered imposing an interim government, a move tantamount to a coup.
The stakes are high. So is the tension in Kabul, where there are rumors that some of Mr. Abdullah’s supporters are considering violence if Mr. Ghani is declared the winner in coming days.
Leaders from the Jamiat-e Islami, a political party associated with the Tajik community and Mr. Abdullah, threatened in August to oppose Mr. Ghani with help from allies in the Afghan National Security Forces. Provincial and district governors with close ties to Mr. Abdullah may be arming militias to shore up their power bases in case of a Ghani victory.
Full Article: Afghanistan Back to the Brink – WSJ.