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Kerry: Afghan Unity Government could be Turning Point

Kerry Afghan Unity Government could be Turning Point

WASHINGTON—

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the completion of the power-sharing deal and successful political transition in Afghanistan could be a turning point for the war-torn South Asian country.

The top U.S. diplomat played a major part in helping negotiate the deal under which the two candidates in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election agreed to form a national unity government.

Late last month, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, replacing outgoing President Hamid Karzai. Abdullah Abdullah became the chief executive officer, a new role similar to that of prime minister.

In an interview with Voice of America’s Afghan service, Kerry praised the statesmanship of the leaders, both of whom he said “came together with a deep realization that they needed to be patriots, that they needed to lift Afghanistan.”

“It was the winning of a battle, but there is still the winning of the war at large – not just the counterterrorism component of it, but the economy, the rights, the development of society, the full development of the democracy, this is a long effort, but if this is the opening of a wider door to that possibility, for the people of Afghanistan and they grab it, then history will hopefully be able to judge that this was a turning point,” Kerry said.

Kerry said he is confident that Mr. Ghani and Abdullah can resolve any disagreements by focusing “not on patronage and smaller political issues but staying focused on the big issues that confront Afghanistan.”

“We are of course are prepared to be cooperative and [to] work and support [the Afghan government]. You know, we care enormously, we have a great, great respect for the very tortured, difficult journey that Afghans have traveled these years,” he said.

Kerry also praised former-President Karzai as “a very intelligent, very skilled advocate on behalf of his country.” While he acknowledged that Karzai often saw things differently than the U.S., Kerry said Karzai “transitioned peacefully through an election to another government that is historic and he has laid the foundation for President Ghani and the new government to define the next chapter of the Afghan history.”

Shortly after he took power, President Ghani signed the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S. that will allow 10,000 soldiers to stay on after the international combat mission ends December 31.

Former Afghan president President  Karzai was a longtime opponent of the pact, citing in part the civilian death toll during the tenure of international troops in the country since the Taliban was ousted in 2001. VOA

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