The NUG: from John Kerry’s power broker deal to extension of NUG

The US Secretary of States John Kerry came to Kabul in a surprise visit on April 9; his trip takes place at a time that dispute arose between the two leaders of NUG regarding the expiry date of the National Unity Government (NUG).

The NUG’s political deal ends in September this year but most of its provisions are not yet implemented. On the one hand, the Chief Executive Office is not yet created in the constitution, and on the other hand, the reforms that the leaders of the NUG had agreed upon to bring are not yet implemented. This has fueled concerns in Kabul and has raised disputes within the government. Besides that, the circles outside government are also pressurizing government.

Apparently John Kerry’s visit to Afghanistan was to support the Afghan government and Afghan Security forces; but it seems that in this trip he resolved disputes between the leaders of the NUG. During a press conference in Kabul, John Kerry said that there is ‘no end’ to National Unity Government agreement, and that according to the agreement he brokered the NUG will last for 5 years.

However Kerry’s recent visit reduced disputes within the government, but it has also raised severe criticism of Afghan politicians. The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the government oppositions and some Parliament members have termed Kerry’s statement as against Afghanistan’s national sovereignty.


The formation of the NUG

On April 5 2014, the first round of the Afghan Presidential Election was held but none of the candidates were able to win the majority of votes. After the second round of election, despite tensions over widespread fraud in the election, Ashraf Ghani was announced as the winner, but his rival Abdullah Abdullah refused to accept the election result. Due to the opposition of the Abdullah’s electoral team the country faced a profound political crisis.

Finally, in September 2014 John Kerry the US Secretary of State came to Afghanistan and brokered the NUG deal between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah according to which Ashraf Ghani became the Afghan President, Abdullah Abdullah the Afghan Chief Executive Officer and both agreed on 50-50 power sharing formula. Thus NUG was formed and hence put an end to election controversies.


Failures of the NUG

  • Disputes within the government: the NUG was formed of two teams that had far greater differences. The least impact of these differences is the failure of the NUG to appoint officials for some key government offices which are now under the control of acting ministers and acting governors.
  • Lack of coordination: Ever since the formation of the NUG, it lacked coordination in its policies for fighting against corruption, foreign policy, migration and etc.
  • Failure in peace efforts: The efforts of the NUG to bring peace have not had desired results and the armed oppositions of the government have also refused to participate in the Quadrilateral Peace Talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States.
  • Failing to maintain security: In the past one and a half year the NUG has failed to ensure security in Afghanistan and security situation in the country is now more deteriorated compared to the past 14 years. Last year, one major city and many districts fell into the hands of the Taliban[1].
  • Worsened economic situation: in the past one and a half year no step was held to provide economic environment in the country and thus due to capital flight, unemployment and deteriorated economic situation thousands of Afghans migrated to Europe.
  • Failure to meet commitments: according to the statistics of a private organ, the NUG has achieved 7% of its commitments, work on 31% of its commitment is in progress, and 60% of its commitments are inactive (there is no recorded progress about them) and it has failed to achieve 2% of its commitments[2].



The achievements of the NUG can be listed as follows:

  • To light the predicament the country was facing: after disputes about the results of the presidential elections the situation in the country was critical. Political settlement between the two candidates brought the country out of the crisis and this was the first achievement of the NUG. Before 2014 there were vast concerns and publicities about the worsening situation in the country after 2014 and in this year the NUG was also formed and unlike the predictions it has still survived.
  • Long term economic projects: since its formation the NUG has started practical work on two key economic projects for Afghanistan, TAPI and CASA-1000.
  • Attracting region’s countries in Afghan issues: after the formation of NUG, Central Asian countries and China have played active role in the Afghan issue. For example China played a basic role in the Afghan Peace Process[3] and Central Asian countries took part in the Afghan economic projects.
  • Fight against corruption: although the NUG lacked a coordinated policy in fight against corruption but it had some achievements in this field, for example, it has gained lots of money through National Procurement Commission and also acquired some loans of Kabul Bank Scandal.
  • Migrants: The first strategic plan for migrants was built and the NUG came to an agreement with Iran and Pakistan to register unregistered Afghan migrants.
  • Foreign policy: Afghanistan-US relations were improved and with a number of countries in the region such as Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia relations were in a better situation than in the past.


The Challenges ahead

Although NUG has large list of challenges but the most important of them can be outlined as follows:

  • Legitimacy: NUG is formed on the basis of a power sharing agreement between the two rivals of Presidential Election and according to most of the experts it is formed in violation of the Afghan constitution. Therefore legitimacy is the main challenge of the NUG that it needs to deal with. The NUG could fill the gap created by illegitimacy through showing itself useful in action, but it proved weak in the field of action too.
  • Critical situation: according to the political agreement between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah, the NUG was supposed to provide the way to Loya Jirga (Great Assembly) in order to create the post of Prime Minister in the constitution, but in this regard the government failed and its failure has fueled disputes within the government and has also tensed the country’s political atmosphere.
  • Corruption: In 2015, Afghanistan was the second most corrupt country on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. It indicates that corruption is still a challenge that seriously needs to be addressed by the Afghan government[4].
  • Security and economic issues: Security situation is getting worse day by day and has also hit economy by forcing the capital to flee from the country and thus unemployment had increased and faced the country with a new challenge.


The future of the NUG

The most important provision of the NUG political agreement was to invite Loya Jirga to create the post of Prime Minister in the constitution. Holding district council election was pre-requirement of Loya Jirga and electoral reform was pre-requirement of district council elections but the government has failed in all of them.

Generally, disputes within the government and illegitimacy of the NUG had brought the it at the verge of collapse but John Kerry’s trip partially resolved the this problem and it seems that the National Unity Government will continue this way, at least for a while.

The end

[1] Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, Weekly analysis, issue 136:

[2] For further info click on this link:

[3] Edward Wong and David Jolly, China considers larger role in Afghanistan Peace Process, New York Times, 2016-Jan- 24.

[4] Corruption Perception Index 2015, Transparency International,

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