Afghan peace pact in chaos as presidential rivals squabble

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) — Squabbling Afghan presidential rivals threatened to both declare themselves president in dueling inauguration ceremonies yesterday, throwing plans for negotiations with the Taleban into chaos.

Those talks among Afghans on both sides of the conflict were supposed to be the next crucial step in a United States (US)-Taleban peace deal, signed less than two weeks ago. But the dispute between the top two candidates in last year’s presidential election over who actually won means the Afghan government side appears unable to present a united front.

Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was reportedly going back and forth between the two Afghan rivals into the early hours yesterday, with some local media reports saying he made five separate visits.

His shuttle diplomacy apparently won him a few hours to continue his mission to try to break the stalemate.

When Washington and the Taleban insurgents signed the deal, the promise was that Afghans would sit down and negotiate a road map for their country’s future. They are looking to hammer out such thorny issues as women’s rights, free speech and the fate of tens of thousands of armed men on both sides of the 18-year war. Those negotiations are set to be held today in Oslo.