Newspaper article International New York Times

Afghans Get Better Governance, but No Government ; Even as Rivals Notch Up Good Deeds, Top Posts Have Yet to Be Filled

Newspaper article International New York Times

Afghans Get Better Governance, but No Government ; Even as Rivals Notch Up Good Deeds, Top Posts Have Yet to Be Filled

Article excerpt

Other than the top elected officials, Afghanistan is still being run by holdovers from the previous administration, along with temporary appointees.

Afghans are being treated to the unfamiliar spectacle of their leaders trying to outdo one another in good governance, even as they remain hopelessly deadlocked on actually forming a new government.

After an early morning suicide bomber struck at a residential camp for foreign workers on Nov. 18, the first vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, showed up straight from his morning workout, still in his tracksuit, complaining in a curbside news conference about Taliban infiltration of the government.

President Ashraf Ghani made a surprise 2 a.m. visit to a military hospital to make sure doctors were really on duty, visited the war wounded and has already traveled to at least three foreign countries. Despite an active schedule, Mr. Ghani has also earned the gratitude of his capital city by keeping his motorcades small, especially compared with those of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, whose convoys paralyzed the city for hours.

Abdullah Abdullah, the national unity government's chief executive, on Monday flew to the site of a Taliban atrocity the day after it occurred, braving the anger of the locals over years of government neglect. And on Wednesday, when the United Nations rolled out its annual appeal for international humanitarian assistance next year, Mr. Abdullah served as chairman for the event -- the first time a top Afghan official had done so.

It has all been in sharp contrast to the past 12 years of Mr. Karzai, whose public appearances were increasingly infrequent and carefully restricted.

But while the nation's top officials are certainly getting a lot done, and looking good on Afghan television while doing it, none of it is the main task at hand. That would be getting to the crux of forming a new government, already weeks past Mr. Ghani's self- imposed deadline, amid lasting disagreements between the president's and Mr. Abdullah's camps.

Other than the top elected officials and their immediate aides, the government is still being run by holdovers from the previous administration, along with a hodgepodge of temporary appointees. That is even in critical posts like the Defense and Interior Ministries, responsible for running the war effort, and the Economy and Finance Ministries, which must deal with a catastrophic budget shortfall and a deepening economic crisis.

"Both sides have supporters expecting to receive a share of the power, and both sides are negotiating to maximize their position," said a senior Afghan official familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential. No breakthrough was in sight, the official said.

The national unity government was brokered by the United States and the United Nations as a way out of a protracted crisis over a deeply fraudulent election, giving Mr. …

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