Almost two hours after the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed reporters about--among other things--Afghanistan’s situation, the State Department issued a release reacting to the Afghan Independent Election Commission's announcement of the final election results of the Afghan poll and called for a focus on peace rather than an engagement with electoral politics.
The statement reads that the United States notes the announcement of the presidential elections in Afghanistan “in favor of President Ashraf Ghani” and that it expects the concerns about the election process to be “handled in accordance with constitutional and legal procedures.”
The statement referred to the ongoing rift between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah over the final results of the polls. Abdullah also claims victory and has vowed to form his own “inclusive government.”
The US Department of State said in the statement that “we call on the new government to be inclusive and reflect the aspirations of all Afghans.”
It added that “the country’s leaders and their supporters should ensure that political debate is carried out in a calm manner, free from the use or threat of violence.”
“They should also desist from destabilizing actions, including purported efforts to establish parallel government structures inconsistent with the constitution and rule of law,” the statement said. “Such moves call into question the country’s sovereignty and unity that the United States strongly supports.”
The statement said the Afghan people want peace and that “it is time to focus not on electoral politics, but on taking steps toward a lasting peace, ending the war with the Taliban, and finding a formula for a political settlement that can serve the interests of all of this country’s citizens through intra-Afghan negotiations we expect will begin in March.”
“We urge all parties to participate in and support the immediate establishment of an agreed national framework for peace that is fully representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to prepare for and lead these negotiations,” the statement added.
The statement also referred to a delay in the scheduled swearing-in event of President Ghani which was about to take place on Thursday.
The statement added that “to ensure adequate time for Afghans to agree on these matters, we thank the Afghan government for agreeing to postpone the presidential inauguration.”
In his press conference, Pompeo called the current opportunity on peace "enormous" and said the US-Taliban deal will be signed in coordination with the “government of national unity” if the reduction in violence is a success.
“We have arrived at a historic opportunity for peace,” Pompeo said. “In 19 years of war, this is the first weeklong break by all sides--if we are successful in achieving it.”
Pompeo said the intra-Afghan negotiations--if they take place--will be the first time that Afghans on all sides of the conflict will sit down together and work towards reconciliation.
“We want to assist and provide the structure so that the Afghans can ultimately get an outcome that is led by Afghans, driven by Afghans as a long-term solution that all the people of Afghanistan can live with,” Pompeo added.