The Government-Noor rift that started about 3 months ago when President Ghani issued an order to accept Noor’s resignation as Balkh governor, and it turned into a battle as Noor rejected the order. The rejection of the President order by Atta Mohammad Noor, the previous governor of Balkh province, not only foreshadowed bitter election fight but also further questioned the legitimacy of the national government in the country. Noor defied Ghani, denouncing the “weak, lazy and corrupt” Kabul government in daily rallies with thousands of supporters and warning the government against trying to remove him by force.
The standoff, alarmed Western embassies and sparked fears of civil violence, heightened an irritable political climate that threatened to further deteriorate the security situation in the country, and especially in Kabul and Mazar, and even could undermine presidential elections in the next year. Such situation strongly worried the Afghan citizens of new round of civil violence in the country too. Indeed, the standoff had a negative impact on the economic market of Afghanistan and prices of commodities increased in the markets. The removal of Noor was considered by some circles as a move to remove a potential rival and divide Jamiat ahead of presidential election likely to be shaped by the ethnic rhetoric that dominate the Afghan politics.
However, Noor claimed that he will only stepped down once the agreement made between him and the government was fulfilled. He further claimed that, the standoff was about the 2019 presidential election, and claimed that the government has no grassroots support among the people and they are afraid of public figures who are strongly supported by the grassroots. Thus, the government referred to a letter of resignation from Noor that was signed by the president last year during negotiations over a possible national role for Noor. At the same time, Noor said the letter, was conditional on steps that Ghani must take and was refused to go.
Balkh which is located on strategic routes into central Asia, was also important for the government in terms of meeting its election pledges to the people, as claiming it will end up to local gulfs of powers. Now, if the government was not able to remove Noor its legitimacy will have further been undermined, and maybe some other powerful provincial governors of Provincial Chiefs of police may followed the same path as Noor did.
Of course, the deal was not a win and lose deal; instead both sides can claim they have won the battle. For Noor, he introduced Ishaq Rahgozar as the new Balkh provincial governor, Najib Aqa Fahim as the State Minister for Disaster Management and Balkhi as the Education minister. On the other side, Ghani can claim that he has fulfilled his presidential election promise and has removed Noor from the Balkh provicianl governor office.
What is clear this did not happen in a night time; it took time and massive discussions. Afghan politicians, local leaders, the United States and other Afghan international allies all played a role to put an end to the conflict and of course, there some neighboring countries who fueled the tensions for the sake of their own interests.
The government-Noor peaceful standoff resolution is one of the most successful lessons learned in the Afghan politics. Afghanistan, as country that its political conflicts has nearly always been resolved by force and bloodshed, and its political conflict resolution is “winning or losing”, this can be a valuable achievement; rationalization of political conflicts resolution approaches and reducing the costs as much as possible. It is a good step towards political rational behavior in Afghanistan and it just can be institutionalized if the Afghan government and Afghan politicians employ a holistic conflict resolution approach in the country and do not act selectively in terms of political conflict resolution in Afghanistan.