The security situations in Iraq and Gaza continue to deteriorate, the war in Syria shows no signs of abating, and Libya slips nearer and nearer to civil conflict — but Secretary of State John Kerry has trained his eye on two separate crises in the region. Resolving an elections dispute in Afghanistan and reaching a landmark nuclear deal with Iran offer Kerry a chance to save face in the Middle East.
Kerry alighted in Kabul on Friday, hoping to settle a dispute between two candidates vying for the Afghan presidency, a disagreement that threatened to derail the first democratic transition of power in 10 years. The two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, both claimed to have won an election that was marked by widespread fraud and rigging. Both candidates acknowledged the widespread irregularities, but Abdullah threatened to break off and form a "parallel government" if his allegations are not addressed. Kerry arrived in Afghanistan just hours after a U.N. proposal failed to bring the two sides together.
Before meeting with Kerry, Ghani committed to an "intensive and extensive" audit of results to restore Afghans' faith in the election process. And his opponent lauded Kerry for his visit after emerging from a meeting with the secretary of State. "At a very critical time you have proved your commitment to Afghanistan, to saving Afghanistan, and saving the democratic process here," Abdullah said. Meetings continue in Kabul today.