Afghans are bracing for fresh violence after Donald Trump abruptly scuttled U.S.-Taliban talks, yanking this month’s presidential election back into the spotlight as the militants look to keep voters from the polls with bloody attacks.
Additionally, for months now a question mark has hung over the Sept. 28 vote, in which President Ashraf Ghani will face off against his own Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, as America prioritized securing a deal with the insurgents that would allow it to begin exiting its longest war.
Furthermore, with the agreement seemingly imminent and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul undermined as rumors swirled of an interim regime many Afghans and observers had expected the poll to be cancelled outright. Moreover, even the more-than-a-dozen candidates who include former warlords, ex-spies and onetime members of the country’s communist regime did not appear to believe it would take place, with little in the way of campaigning.
However, as the incumbent, Ghani is presumed to be the favorite, though with the lack of campaigning or credible polling observers cautioned against making any predictions. But with Trump’s bombshell announcement on Saturday that the U.S.-Taliban talks were off, the situation changed.
Notably, the presidential vote has already been delayed twice this year.
Both Ghani and former anti-Soviet fighter Abdullah claimed they had won that contest, with the U.S. stepping in to broker a fragile power-sharing agreement.
In brief, a key element of the U.S.-Taliban talks had been securing a guarantee from the insurgents that they will hold a direct dialogue with Kabul, deemed crucial to ending the nearly 18-year conflict. They have historically refused to speak to a government they deem a “puppet” of the U.S. But if the government wins a strong mandate, then “the Taliban will have no alternative but to deal with it,” argues the analyst Mir.