11 july 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Kabul seeking to break theĀ  deadlock between Afghanistan’s presidential candidates by forging a coalition government.

Mr Kerry went straight from a US-China conference in Beijing to Kabul, where rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah are in a standoff over results that show Dr Ghani to be the winner but which Dr Abdullah claims are skewed by systematic fraud.

The American is armed with a threat from US President Barack Obama to cut off US assistance if there’s a resort “to violent or extra-constitutional means” in the dispute that threatens to splinter the country along ethnic and geographic lines. Mr Kerry’s immediate task may be to come up with an agreement on how to weed out fraudulent ballots.

Ashraf Ghani was in the lead by more than 1 million votes, according to preliminary results. Photo: AP

“The problem is there’s a total loss of trust in the Afghan institutions and the way they’ve handled their job because even the issue of how many ballots to audit and how many people voted are up in the air,” said Omar Samad, the president of Silk Road Consulting, a Washington-based geopolitical advisory firm.

Before leaving Beijing, Mr Kerry said he has been in touch with outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as Dr Ghani and Dr Abdullah.

“We will encourage both of them to not raise expectations with their supporters, to publicly demonstrate respect for the audit process and the accountability processes and also to show critical statesmanship and leadership,” Mr Kerry said.