‘I’m calling on Taliban, Hezbi-i-Islami to be ready for talks’

ghaniMonitoring Desk

KABUL

: Afghanistan inaugurated its first new president in a decade on Monday, swearing in technocrat Ashraf Ghani to head a power-sharing government just as the withdrawal of most foreign troops presents a crucial test.

The first democratic handover of power in Afghanistan’s history has been far from smooth: the deal for a unity government was cobbled together after months of deadlock over a vote in which both Ghani and opponent Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory.

“Security is a main demand of our people, and we are tired of this war,” Ghani said. “I am calling on the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami to prepare for political negotiations.”

Hezb-i-Islami is an Islamist faction loosely allied with the Taliban.

Ghani also vowed to crack down on rampant corruption and called for cooperation within the coalition government.

The inauguration ceremony was held at the vast presidential palace compound in central Kabul. Foreign dignitaries including Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and senior White House adviser John Podesta were due to attend.

The new government will immediately face a fiscal crisis. Already heavily dependent on foreign aid, Kabul has asked the United States and other donors for $537 million to pay its bills until the end of the year.

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