By Mick Krever, CNN
Afghanistan’s new unity government was based on “the need of the country” and is “in the best interest of the country,” Abdullah Abdullah, who will now take on the new role of chief executive, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Monday.
It was Abdullah’s first interview since signing a landmark power-sharing deal on Sunday with his rival in the presidential election, Ashraf Ghani. The deal ends months of deadlock.
Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank executive, will become president and Abdullah, a former foreign minister, will have a role like that of an “executive prime minister,” he told Amanpour.
“It is a national unity government by all … sense of it,” he said. “It is a partnership between two teams.”
“There was no better alternative than the formation of [a] national unity government,” he said. “This will urge both sides to work together with the spirit of partnership and successes for everybody and for the people of Afghanistan. God forbidding, failure will turn into a failure for everybody.”
The inauguration will take place in as soon as a week, he said, followed within days by the signing of a security agreement with NATO that would allow international troops to stay in country beyond the current December deadline to withdraw.
The United States is eager for that security agreement, which was first negotiated and then reneged on by President Hamid Karzai, to be signed. Both candidates had promised during the campaign that they would sign it.
Abdullah and his team will also have responsibilities for national security, he told Amanpour, and will be members of the National Security Council, which will be chaired by Ghani, the “commander in chief.”
By Abdullah’s own admission, the new unity government has a long list of challenges ahead, both financial and in terms of national security.
The Taliban made advances during the summer fighting season, threatening Helmand Province.
The Afghan government and the international community have long struggled with whether, and under what circumstances, to negotiate with the Taliban, an organization that itself has wavered between seeing itself as a military and political group.
Abdullah said that “while we have to defend our people against terrorism and Taliban … the start of a serious and genuine talks with the Taliban” is necessary, “sooner rather than later.”
“Whether the Taliban sees this as an opportunity or still dig their feet and they think that they can overthrow the government by force, that will be a different issue. I don’t think that they will achieve their goal by force.”