Former WB Official is New Afghan Leader

Former WB Official is New Afghan Leader

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in Monday as Afghanistan’s new president, replacing Hamid Karzai.
Moments after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath, he swore in his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, as chief executive, fulfilling a political pledge he had taken to share power and defuse election tensions that had threatened to spark violence between the country’s north and south.
Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and Afghan finance minister, wore a dark black turban popular in the country’s south as he swore in his two vice presidents and then Abdullah.
Abdullah, a former foreign minister, spoke first and thanked Karzai for his service and the people of the country for casting votes in the millions despite the threat of attack from Taliban militants who tried to thwart the election process.
“We are committed as one in the national unity government,” AP quoted Abdullah as saying. “Our commitment will be fulfilled together as unified team to create national unity.”
Ghani Ahmadzai then congratulated Karzai for a peaceful and democratic transition of power, and he thanked Abdullah for making the national unity government possible.
“We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable,” Ghani Ahmadzai said.
Karzai - the only president Afghanistan and the West have known since the 2001 US-led invasion - wore a wide smile as he greeted his presidential guards upon entering the palace. Karzai has said he is glad to be stepping down after more than a decade.
The inauguration caps a nearly six-month election season that began when ballots were first cast in April. A runoff election in June between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah stretched on for weeks as both sides leveled charges of fraud. A recount reduced Ghani Ahmadzai’s vote percentage from 56 percent to 55 percent, but still gave him the win.
But the real power struggle was taking place in marathon talks between the two sides, often brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and other US officials. The political deal the sides agreed to created the new position of chief executive that Abdullah will now fill.
US officials have said they expect Ghani Ahmadzai to sign a security agreement with the US shortly after his inauguration to allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the year’s end.

 Raging Violence
as the inauguration unfolded in the heavily guarded presidential palace, two bomb attacks took place on the road connecting the country’s main airport with the palace. One roadside bomb did not result in any deaths or injuries, but a second attack about a kilometer from the airport by a suicide bomber killed six or seven people, police officer Abdul Latif said.
A bigger attack took place in the eastern province of Paktia. Police Capt. Mohammed Hekhlas said that a car bomb exploded near a government compound as gunmen attacked, sparking a gun battle that killed seven Taliban militants. Another police official said four police officers and two civilians also were killed.
The inauguration took place eight days after the political deal was signed between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah. John Podesta, counselor to President Barack Obama, Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari were present at the inauguration ceremony.


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