By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - The U.S. on Wednesday finally endorsed the reelection of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and hailed his decision to postpone his inauguration ceremony.
In a series of tweets, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said Washington welcomed the postponement of Ghani’s inauguration until March 9.
“This will allow time for necessary consultations so that the best interests of Afghanistan and its people are reflected and preserved by the new government,” he said.
“As the electoral process has concluded, President Ghani, as the declared winner, and other leaders should ensure that the new government is inclusive and reflects the aspirations of all Afghans.”
The endorsement from Kabul’s main backer came almost a week after the much-delayed final results of the Sep. 28 polls were announced.
Earlier, the U.S. State Department acknowledged the Afghan election commission’s Feb. 18 announcement in favor of Ghani.
In a statement, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus noted that “concerns have been raised about the election process” and said Washington expects them “to be handled in accordance with constitutional and legal procedures”.
She was alluding to allegations of “systemic fraud and serious electoral irregularities” raised by Ghani’s main rival Abdullah Abdullah.
“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,” said Ortagus.
She urged Afghanistan’s leadership to forego electoral politics to focus on “steps towards a lasting peace, ending the war with the Taliban, and finding a formula for a political settlement”.
The spokesperson added that the U.S. expects intra-Afghan negotiations to start in March, while thanking the government for postponing the presidential inauguration.
Washington’s statements come as Afghanistan marks a landmark week of ‘reduction in violence’ in line with the proposed U.S.-Taliban peace deal, which is likely to be inked later this week.