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UN envoy warns against political brinkmanship in Afghanistan

United Nations: A UN envoy for Afghanistan warned against political brinkmanship in the war-torn country — at a time when COVID-19 is making the situation even more complex.

“Afghanistan appears to be reaching a defining moment,” Ingrid Hayden, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan, told the Security Council, referring to the political impasse between President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Xinhua news agency reported.

Ghani was announced the winner of the September 28, 2019, presidential election, and was sworn in for a second term on March 9, 2020. Abdullah rejected the outcome and held a parallel presidential inauguration on the same day.

“Almost two decades after the start of the coalition intervention, the question for the Islamic Republic now is: can its leaders rally together to engage in meaningful talks with the Taliban to achieve a sustainable peace? The choice is made stark by the all-encompassing threat of COVID-19, which poses grave dangers to the health of Afghanistan’s population and, potentially, to the stability of its institutions,” said Hayden.

The political brinkmanship prompted serious concerns in many quarters, Afghans and internationals alike, of the potential for a dangerous miscalculation which could have long-lasting implications for the future of the country, she said via video teleconference.

The impasse continues, despite intensive engagement by key stakeholders, particularly the United States, regional actors and Afghan political leaders. The seriousness of the situation is underlined by the U.S. decision on March 23 to immediately reduce assistance by 1 billion U.S. dollars for 2020 and Washington’s preparedness to do the same again the year after, she noted.

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