KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called for a peaceful change of leadership in the northern Afghan province of Balkh, where the powerful governor has defied attempts by the central government to oust him for the past month amid sensitive ethnic rivalries.
The standoff between President Ashraf Ghani and Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor has threatened to destabilize the fragile Western-backed administration in Kabul and raised fears the government could try to use force to break the stalemate.
Pence - Washington - South - Asia - Strategy
Pence spoke to Ghani about Washington’s new South Asia strategy and afterwards posted a message on Twitter saying he had emphasized support for the Afghan government “to engage (with) Balkh Governor Atta and conduct peace transition of leadership”.
Noor is one of the most prominent of a number of powerful regional leaders who have been a thorn in the side of Ghani, a former World Bank official named president after a disputed election in 2014.
Confrontation - Maneuvering - Elections - Year - Rivalries
The confrontation, amid increasing political maneuvering ahead of presidential elections next year, has been colored by the ethnic rivalries that have become increasingly prominent in Afghan politics.
Noor is a leader of Jamiat-i Islami, a party mainly supported by Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks in the north who have become increasingly resentful of Ghani, a Pashtun, whom they...
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