US department of state spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Washington is committed to the election process and any decision to move out the date would be at Kabul’s discretion.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Nauert said: “One of the things that is important to us is we’re committed to the overall electoral process. If there were to be any changes made to the scheduling, that would entirely be a decision on the part of Afghanistan, one in which we would not interfere.”
Commenting about US Special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and his work, she added, “Ambassador Khalilzad has been hard at work. I think he’s spent more time on an airplane or traveling overseas than he has back in Washington in the past month and a half or so since he’s taken on these duties. I can tell you that our support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process is our policy. In terms of elections and if they were to make any changes, that would entirely be up to the government of Afghanistan and not the United States government.”
With regard to the Moscow meetings, Ms Nauert clarified that “we see Russia, the Russian Government doing this, where they will hold meetings related to hot topics around the world. That is certainly their right to do so. The United States government sent a representative simply at the working level, not to participate but just to observe in those discussions.”
These comments have been a clarification after an Wall Street Journal article sparked a rumour on Monday claiming that the US was proposing for the Afghan government to postpone next year’s elections with the pretext of being able to broker peace and come to an agreement with Taliban.
Moments after the piece became viral, the Afghan government immediately shunned the allegations and President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman assured that the government was committed to holding presidential elections as per the Afghan constitution and the date determined by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, expressed on social media that “Continuity in a democratic process is a must and any other proposal than the will of Afghans which is outlined in our constitution is simply not acceptable.”
Fazel Fazly, a presidential adviser, also remarked “We will stick to the election date announced by the IEC and follow the timeline once determined.”
But some politicians have also expressed that postponed presidential elections might not be a bad idea, as they believe an interim government can be set up since prospects of peace with the Taliban are important.
On Tuesday, US ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass met with the CEO Abdullah Abdullah to discuss some of these issues, after which Dr Abdullah clarified on Twitter that the scheduled elections would go ahead as planned.
Bass also soon after stated on Twitter that “We remain committed to helping the electoral commissions and the Afghan government prepare for presidential elections in April 2019. Timing of Afghan elections is for Afghans to decide.”
The Wall Street Journal article has sent many in panic as there were news of the US and Taliban meeting more than what has been told publicly, according to Russian officials.