Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo: Reuters)
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo: Reuters)

President Ashraf Ghani launches re-election campaign in Afghanistan

  • Tens of thousands of soldiers, police and civilians have been killed in the last five years, leaving Afghans weary of violence and widespread corruption in public life.
  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is widely expected to win again

KABUL : Afghan President Ashraf Ghani launched his re-election campaign on Sunday, promising to start peace talks with the Taliban after decades of war and to transform his nation into a trade hub. The 70-year-old US-trained former World Bank official came to power in 2014 after winning a bitterly disputed election marred by accusations of cheating.

He is widely expected to win again. Having taken office as most foreign troops were leaving, with a much-reduced Nato alliance mission focused mainly on training local forces, his government has struggled to combat a growing Taliban insurgency.

Tens of thousands of soldiers, police and civilians have been killed in the last five years, leaving Afghans weary of violence and widespread corruption in public life.

Underlining the threat, a powerful blast hit Kabul on Sunday evening, killing one person and wounding a dozen more. Ghani’s vice-presidential running mate Amrullah Saleh was injured. Earlier, as campaigning began for the 28 September vote, Ghani had told a crowd: “Peace is coming and talks will definitely begin. We want to end this bloodshed."

The election has become inextricably linked with the peace process, which has grabbed headlines for months but is yet to produce a major breakthrough.With US President Donald Trump making little secret of his desire to end US’s military involvement in Afghanistan entirely, US officials have been talking with the Taliban about a timetable for withdrawal, in exchange for security guarantees.

Ghani’s rivals accuse him of clinging to power past the normal end of his mandate in May and suspect he may try to stay in office until a peace deal with the Taliban is agreed.

Despite the security problems, many Afghans appreciate Ghani’s anti-corruption policies, opening of economic corridors with regional powers, and appointing of young and educated Afghans in top government positions.

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