Countdown to the NATO Summit

With NATO leaders meeting September 4 and 5 in Wales, the pressure is growing on the auditing process.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently told Reuters: ‘”Soon we will have to take tough decisions because if there isn’t a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning … very soon,” he said, without giving a firm date.’

In a different interview Ashraf Ghani remained optimistic that a new president will be inaugurated by the end of September and in fact suggested that the results would be ‘clear’ within the week (See Khaama Press here).  This certainly seems like the declaration of a candidate who is fairly certain of his victory and rumblings on the Abdullah side of things certainly do not suggest that such a timeline is feasible at all.

On the more technical side of things of a total of 22,828 ballot boxes, only 8,867 have been audited so far with a special audit of 6,000 concerning boxes beginning on Sunday (see Tolo here).  Given this rate of progress, it certainly seems like the end of August deadline is unrealistic.  That being said, it is clear that this is no longer a technical process and the negotiations between Abdullah and Ghani, facilitated by the international community are what really matters.  This means a deal could come together very quickly (particularly if Kerry and others can convince Abdullah that he will most likely lose, meaning he could gain more from cutting a deal).  In the meantime, however, it seems that the Abduallah side feels that there is more to be gained from a dragged out process and the Ghani side feels like if it waits long enough the results will be in their favor.  In the meantime, the waiting and political chaos continue…

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