Afghanistan. During the year, more and more countries brought home their soldiers from the country, and even NATO-led troops left Afghanistan, which was still severely affected by violence and attacks on both military and civilian targets. The year was also marked by the presidential election held during the spring, but whose results were greatly delayed due to disagreement among the candidates and accusations of, among other things, electoral fraud. Despite a number of difficulties, the presidential election was described as a success because it was the first time in modern times that a peaceful transition of power took place in the country.
According to UN statistics, the number of civilian victims continued to increase during the year. Already in January, a fatal attack on a restaurant in the capital’s Kabul diplomatic district occurred. The attack, which killed 13 people, was described as the worst ever targeted at foreign nationals in the country. In February, some twenty soldiers of the Afghan military were also killed.
In March, an event that attracted a great deal of attention in both Swedish and foreign media. According to Countryaah.com, Afghanistan population in 2020 is estimated at 38,928,357. It was during an ongoing reportage recording that Swedish Radio’s Asia correspondent Nils Horner was shot dead in an open street in Kabul. The incident sparked a discussion about the security of the many journalists who were in the country. Later in the year, Horner was posthumously awarded the Publicist Club’s Big Prize, which is awarded annually to a prominent Swedish journalist. Horner’s very last radio report came about the concerns of Afghan women ahead of the impending presidential election.
In early April, a well-known German war correspondent and photographer were shot to death by a policeman in the province of Khost on the border with Pakistan. Police said he shot the journalist and her colleague in revenge for the air strikes carried out by NATO forces against his hometown in the Ghorband Valley.
In the same month, the first round of the presidential election was held between the opposition leader and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and the country’s finance minister, Ashraf Ghani. The incumbent President Hamid Karzai could not stand for election himself, as he already held the post for two terms. The election, which was held on April 5, was initially described as a great success, both because of an unexpectedly high turnout and that fewer violent events than expected occurred during the election day itself. However, none of the candidates managed to get their own majority, which led to a second round of elections on June 14. Before and during Election Day in June, several attacks were carried out that killed nearly 50 people. One week before the election, at least four people were killed and about twenty were injured in two explosions targeting Abdullah.
Despite widespread violence, turnout was high even in the second round. According to the National Electoral Commission, just over seven million of the country’s total population was around 30 million. Shortly after Election Day, however, came the first charges of electoral fraud and Abdullah demanded that the vote count be interrupted because he did not trust preliminary information that Ghani would lead large over him. In several places, protests were organized against the alleged electoral fraud and the president of the electoral commission had to resign, after which the UN began mediation between Abdullah and the electoral commission. The disputed exit resulted in a comprehensive vote count that was monitored by the UN, among others. However, Abdullah dismissed both the voting process and the voting review. The recalculation of votes was described as the largest in UN history.
In August, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kabul in an attempt to mediate between the two candidates and appoint a winner. It was not until September that the final election results were announced, which in turn was in the favor of Ashraf Ghani. Ghani was reported to have received 56% of the vote while Abdullah received 44%. After further negotiation meetings, Abdullah and Ghani finally agreed on a division of power which meant Ghani was given the presidential post while Abdullah was named the country’s “highest executive official”. In his installation speech, Ghani appealed to the Taliban to start peace talks with the government. However, the Taliban continued to attack both the civilian population and strategic targets, such as military posts and police. Nearly 5,000 Afghan police and soldiers were reportedly killed in various attacks during the year.
In December, the Afghan Parliament approved a decision to allow American soldiers to participate in combat operations over the coming years. The idea had previously been that the United States would continue its efforts against al Qaeda only and contribute to the training of domestic soldiers.