On Monday, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and President Abdullah Abdullah were both inaugurated, as presidents, in ceremonies next door to one another. The inaugurations reflect contested results to an often delayed, heavily disputed presidential election.
Both Ghani and Abdullah claimed victory in this vote, and did the same thing during the last election. That time, the US brokered a power-sharing deal where Ghani was president and Abdullah was CEO. This time, the US just says they are ‘strongly opposed’ to parallel governments.
Which isn’t to say that the US is above exploiting the split. President Ghani issued a decree on prisoner releases reportedly in return for the US sending Zalmay Khalilzad to his inauguration. This certainly gives the appearance of the US endorsing him.
Until this is resolved, however, it is another big blow for the intra-Afghan peace talks, as the Taliban will have to talk with an Afghan government, and that necessarily means figuring out which one that is.