Afghanistan profile

President: Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah President Ghani, right, heads a unity government along with former rival and now chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, left

Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president in September 2014 following months of bitter argument over who won the election.

He replaced Hamid Karzai, who led the country for twelve years since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001.

President Ghani heads a government of national unity with Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up in the disputed election. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Dr Abdullah said the former rivals were now one team and would work together.

The long delay in forming a new Afghan government paralysed the economy and encouraged the Taliban, correspondents say.

The first democratic handover of power in Afghan history was far from smooth: the deal for a unity government was cobbled together after months of deadlock over a vote in which both Mr Ghani and opponent Mr Abdullah claimed victory.

And illustrating the problems facing the new president, a suicide bomber killed several people at a security checkpoint near Kabul airport just before Mr Ghani was sworn in. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Mr Ghani's first act after being sworn in was to sign a decree creating the post of chief executive. Mr Abdullah was sworn in to that job. The specially created post carries powers similar to those of a prime minister.

Both foreign backers and Afghans hoped that Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah can put aside their acrimonious election rivalry and work to improve life in a country that has suffered war and poverty for decades.

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