U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, late Thursday in hopes of reducing tensions amid a disputed election count.
Kerry plans to meet both of Afghanistan’s prospective presidents, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah on Friday. Preliminary results of the runoff election earlier this year put Ghani in the lead, yet Abdullah and his camp allege massive voter fraud.
Abdullah won the first round of elections with his 46 percent to Ghani's 31.6 percent, but Ahmadzai took 56 percent of the vote in the runoff election. The jump in Ghani's ballot percentage fueled allegations of fraud.
On Tuesday, Abdullah said he refused to recognize the results. Both candidates have claimed victory, and supporters of Abdullah have called for him to form a “parallel government” and break off from Afghanistan.
The U.S. is pushing for an inclusive government. President Obama spoke with both candidates on Wednesday, urging “all parties to avoid steps that undermine Afghan national unity…” and “noted that there is no justification for resorting to violent or extra-constitutional means, which would result in the end of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan.”
Experts worry that election tension could lead to ethnic violence between Pashtuns and minorities as Ghani is Pashtun and Abdullah is Tajik. The Afghani government has mulled over banning Facebook while results are counted to quell ethnically charged speech but refused that proposal on Sunday.
Kerry arrived directly from a two-day visit to China for an annual Sino-American economic conference. Speaking in China, Kerry expressed “enormous concern” over a possible escalation of tensions in Afghanistan, and asked both candidates to “show critical statesmanship and leadership at a time when Afghanistan obviously needs it.”
“So it’s our hope very much that over the course of these next days, very soon a way forward can be found that will provide the foundation for Afghanistan to grab a hold of the future that so many millions of voters came out to express their will about just a short time ago,” Kerry said.
He also took time Thursday night to urge the Congress to expedite President Obama's ambassador appointments to help U.S. foreign relations.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) July 10, 2014
Kerry will also meet with departing leader Hamid Karzai, who will hand over the presidency in Afghanistan’s first-ever democratic transfer of power.