Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in today as Afghanistan's new president, replacing Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 US-led invasion toppled the Taliban. Moments after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath, he swore in his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, as chief executive, fulfilling a political pledge he had taken to share power and defuse election tensions that had threatened to spark violence between the country's north and south. In his first speech, Ghani Ahmadzai called on the Taliban and other militants to join the country's political process and lay down their weapons. However, extremist violence today killed at least 12 civilians and police officers.
"We are tired of war," Ghani Ahmadzai said in a televised address. "Our message is peace, [but] this doesn't mean we are weak." He congratulated Karzai for a peaceful and democratic transition of power and thanked Abdullah for making the national unity government possible. US officials have said they expect the new president to sign a security agreement with the US shortly after his inauguration to allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31 this year.