In Brief

Afghan election: Ghani and Abdullah form unity government

Ashraf Ghani becomes president of Afghanistan five months after first votes were cast

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Three months of political deadlock have come to an end in Afghanistan after Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed a power-sharing agreement negotiated by the United States.

Ghani will become president of the country and Abdullah will work as chief executive, effectively having the powers of a prime minister, and will be responsible for the day to day running of the country.

The two opponents had been involved in a bitter battle over disputed run-off results in this year's presidential election that threatened to create a sectarian divide within the country. Ghani support is largely Pashtun and Abdullah has the backing of the Tajik population.

Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official and his opponent Abdullah, a former foreign minister, sealed the deal with a handshake and an embrace.

A formal inauguration ceremony is expected to take place within the next week and will mark the first transfer of power in ten years as President Hamid Karzai steps down.

"This agreement marks an important opportunity for unity and increased stability in Afghanistan," the White House said in a statement. "We continue to call on all Afghans — including political, religious, and civil society leaders — to support this agreement and to come together in calling for cooperation and calm."

However, not everyone is as optimistic. "They have created a fabricated national unity government, and I don’t think such a government can last," Wadir Safi, a political analyst at Kabul University, told the New York Times.

Both Ghani and Abdullah now face many challenges including a strengthening Taliban, overwhelmed security forces, the withdrawal of Nato troops, a weak economy and high unemployment.

The deal has been described as a major victory for US Secretary of State John Kerry, who brokered the talks and got the two sides to agree to the idea of a power-sharing deal in July. The US is now waiting to see whether Ghani will uphold his pledge to sign a bilateral security agreement which would allow some US troops to remain in the country after their combat mission comes to an end this year.

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