KABUL • The fragile Afghan power-sharing arrangement brokered by the United States sustained a serious blow when the government's chief executive, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, denounced his governing partner, President Ashraf Ghani, as unfit to govern.
Dr Abdullah, addressing a group of young people in his office garden on Thursday, said he had struggled to achieve progress with Mr Ghani during the two years of their government in terms of electoral reform - one of his conditions for the agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry after the disastrous election dispute in 2014.
The agreement, which prevented a clash that could have torn the country apart, made Mr Ghani president and Dr Abdullah chief executive and gave him equal say in governmental appointments.
Dr Abdullah on Thursday accused Mr Ghani of making decisions unilaterally and of failing to consult him on appointments. He also said he had made little progress with Mr Ghani over electoral reform.
"Over a period of three months, you don't have time to see your chief executive one-on-one for even an hour or two?" he said, addressing Mr Ghani. "What does your highness spend your time on?" "There are arguments in any government," he added, "but if someone does not have the patience for discussion, then they are not fit for the presidency either."
Under the agreement worked out by Mr Kerry, the government is supposed to hold parliamentary elections and enact sweeping electoral changes by the end of next month, a deadline that is not expected to be met.
Political opposition groups are mounting pressure over the failure to hold parliamentary elections, with some demanding a grand council of elders to decide on the government's legitimacy.
A Ghani spokesman declined to comment on Dr Abdullah's remarks.
The public falling-out occurred as the Taleban encroached on Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, from multiple directions, cutting off the main roads. On Wednesday night, Afghan forces barely fended off a Taleban advance on the district of Nawa, just south of Lashkar Gah.
Over 3,000 families have been displaced by fighting in the past two weeks, said officials in Helmand.
Many analysts said they were surprised by the bluntness of Dr Abdullah's comments, particularly at a time when the Taleban seem to be making significant inroads. Dr Abdullah himself said the government had been unable to recover the bodies of soldiers who had been under siege for seven days.
He said he was meeting with Mr Ghani today to clear up some of the longstanding issues between them.
"I hope that he is in a wise state of mind and that he has a realisation of the realities," Dr Abdullah said.
"The time when one could fool someone with candy and cookies - that time is over."
NEW YORK TIMES