Soldiers inside Afghanistan say preparations and precautions are already in place for U.S. and NATO troops in the run-up to tomorrow’s ceremonies. For the first time in a decade the citizens of one of the most war-torn countries in history will have a new leader. Ashraf Ghani will officially become President Ghani.
While the bombings of ISIS/ISIL in Iraq and Syria have hijacked the headlines the last two weeks, the war effort in Afghanistan has been on the media’s back burner. But U.S. troops know tomorrow has the potential to be one of the most volatile days in recent memory.
After thousands of years of tribal rule, the inauguration ceremony will signify Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power, ever. Three months after the June election in which his opponent initially declared victory, Ashraf Ghani was eventually declared the winner.
His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, a former Taliban resistance fighter of Tajik heritage,conceded after heavy influence from both the United Nations and the United States. Ghani claimed the top spot following an audit of nearly eight million paper ballots. Abdullah will be inaugurated tomorrow as chief executive, a post similar to a prime minister.
Both Ghani and Abdullah are pro-Western leaders who promise progress in a country that to outsiders looks like it is still the middle ages. President Ghani, 65, is thought to be one of the top one-hundred intellectuals in the world. He is Pashtun of the Ahmadzai tribe.
Security forces expect trouble from Taliban militants before, during and after the inauguration ceremonies. The Economic Times wrote this today:
Security problems were underlined today when a bomb hidden in a vehicle door exploded outside the presidential palace complex, injuring the driver.
As Operation Enduring Freedom winds down there are fewer U.S. and NATO troops inside Afghanistan now than in the last five years. Thirty-three NATO bases remain, down from 800. When the last U.S. and NATO combat troops leave Afghanistan, many by the end of this year, only Afghan security forces and the Afghan Army will be there to fight the Taliban. If the newly elected officials agree, 12,500 U.S. led troops will stay in Afghanistan into 2015, to train and support the Afghan National Army and other security personnel.
Of note, just this week a Taliban offensive in eastern Afghanistan took the lives of more than 100 civilians. Some women and children were beheaded.