Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani vows quick action on US security pact
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, one of two candidates in Afghanistan's June 14 presidential election runoff, is confident he'll win and said he would quickly sign a security pact with the US.
Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank economist, said in an interview that he wouldn't make any changes to the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the US that outgoing President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign. He also said he would send the pact to parliament for approval within a week.
"I was one of the chief negotiators and I know every word and I will not change anything," Ghani, 64, said at his house in Kabul, referring to the agreement. "Without the BSA, our security sector will face a national crisis."
Ghani is challenging Abdullah Abdullah, who won the most votes in the first round on April 5. Both have pledged to sign the pact, which would allow US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond this year and secure billions of dollars in aid money for Asia's poorest country, which spends nearly half of its budget on security after 13 years of war against the Taliban.
Karzai declined to meet with Barack Obama at Bagram air base on Sunday, during the US president's visit to Afghanistan that only lasted a few hours. Karzai said Afghanistan would welcome Obama at the presidential palace, according to a statement from Karzai's press office. Obama called Karzai from Air Force One on his departure from Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official.
Abdullah won 45 per cent of more than 7 million votes, with Ghani taking 32 per cent. Zalmai Rassoul finished with 12 per cent.
Ghani is an ethnic Pashtun who served as Afghanistan's finance minister from 2002-2004 and finished fourth in the 2009 election. He holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Columbia University in New York.