The United States warned on Tuesday it would withdraw financial and security support from Afghanistan if anyone tried to take power illegally. The warning came as supporters of a presidential candidate rallied in Kabul for a parallel government.
Preliminary results announced on Monday showed that Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official, won the June 14 second round. However, his rival Abdullah Abdullah immediately rejected the outcome, saying the vote was marred by widespread fraud.
Underscoring the magnitude of the crisis, Abdullah said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Kabul on Friday. Kerry arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The U.S.-China talks finish on Thursday.
Thousands of Abdullah supporters gathered in the capital Kabul on Tuesday, demanding their leader form a parallel cabinet and unilaterally assert his own rule. This could potentially further fracture the fragile country.
In a sharp warning, Kerry said there was no justification for violence or “extra-constitutional measures.” “I have noted reports of protests in Afghanistan and of suggestions of a ‘parallel government’ with the gravest concern,” he said in a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Any action to take power by extra-legal means will cost Afghanistan the financial and security support of the United States and the international community,” Kerry added.
Afghanistan is heavily reliant on foreign donors to fund everything from building roads and paying school teachers to security. The United States pays the lion’s share of all international aid. Observers fear that a standoff between Abdullah and Ghani could plunge Afghanistan into disorder, with no clear leader in a country already beset by deep-rooted ethnic divisions.
Abdullah has accused President Hamid Karzai, who is stepping down after 12 years in power, of helping rig the vote in favour of Ghani, describing it as a “coup” against the people. The standoff over the vote has quashed hopes for a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan.
This is a concern for the West as most U.S.-led forces withdraw from the country this year.
The Independent Election Commission on Monday announced that Ghani won the June 14 second round with 56.44% of the vote, according to preliminary results. The tally might change when the final official numbers come out on July 22.
This report was compiled using information from Reuters.