Wednesday, 21 August 2019 11:33 GMT

Stability in Afghanistan come only through a democratic system: President Ghani

(MENAFN - Afghanistan Times) Here is President Ashraf Ghani's complete interview with TRT.

Interviewer: Mr.
President. Thank you for taking the time to speak with TRT this morning.

Ashraf Ghani: Well. It is a pleasure to welcome you. My best wishes to
the Turkish people and the Turkish government.

The Taliban have made no secret of their plan to restore the Emirate. The
Americans are keen to withdraw. In the Doha talks, it appears that though the
Taliban have the upper hand and the Americans all may have the concessions. Do
you think the Doha talks will bring lasting peace to Afghanistan?

Ashraf Ghani: I think all of those are assumptions. The fundamental issue is
stability in Afghanistan can only come through a democratic system. If we do
not have a system where the citizens elect their leaders, there will not be
stability. Emirate was never accepted by the people of Afghanistan. It was
imposed by faux. Our Loya Jirga, the Consultative Grand Assembly of 29th April
– 2nd June categorically has endorsed the notion of republic.
Peace must take place within the concept of the republic, not the concept of
the Emirate.

any peace process has a phase of reaching of preparing for an agreement,
concluding an agreement and then acquiring an endorsement. The endorsement of
any agreement must be done by the people of Afghanistan either through Afghan
parliament, through a Loya Jirga or through a referendum. So we need to know
that they are phases to this.

discussions between the United States and Taliban are focused on four
components. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We, the government of
Afghanistan, have asked for a review of level of American present troops as
early as January so there is no disagreement on that issue and I am sure you
probably add other questions.

question of Taliban commitment vis-à-vis their relations with terrorist
networks is not just to the Americans. This is a global issue, it is a regional
issue and particularly it is a national issue. So that is not an area where
concessions are going to be granted very easily, we need to have guarantees and
a system of verification.

third area is ceasefire which we have successfully done, and it should not be
forgotten we took the initiative to bring peace because it
first phase it was a taboo during my predecessor; we brought it to the public.

fourth one is of course talk between the government of Afghanistan and the
Taliban and we need to negotiate.

are also two other issues that are fundamental. One is the question of drugs
because the relation of the Taliban to the criminal economy is a global issue
and a regional issue. Now it is gone past heroine to production of Meth and
crystal. And unless we focus on this, the world…

second is the critical role of the relation of Taliban with Pakistan. To say
that concessions are being made, I think it is premature. We have started an
earnest process where the political will both of the Afghan government, the
United States have been clearly made, now the ball is in the court of Taliban
to see whether they have the commitment for engaging a political solution that
will be enduring.

You have made many overtures to the Taliban but they continue to refuse to
engage with the Afghan government. Why is this?

Ashraf Ghani: Well. Because of the ideological reason; the notion of the
emirate and because of their dependencies. Of course, we had breakthroughs. In
2018, for the first time in forty years, we held a successful ceasefire. And
that ceasefire was a controlled experiment. Tens of thousands of Taliban next
with their fellow Afghan citizens and after that they were extremely reluctant
to resume fighting. So one really needs to differentiate between rank and file
who clearly during the ceasefire indicated. All peace processes are
complicated, all areas so there is nothing new in the process of refusal, but
the goal of seeking peace as our Loya Jirga again has articulated is the goal
to reach for the realization of which I am dedicated.

There seems to be some disputes over who controls most of the territory. Does
this even matter? And do you believe that concession should be made on the
basis of who controls more territory? 

Ashraf Ghani: Well. There are two ways of looking at this. First, if
you are looking at the formal figures. Of nearly 400 districts, only 22 are
under Taliban control. That gives you the percentage.

we need to look at what ground meets. Most of the population of Afghanistan is
today in the cities. Kabul has at least around five million in the province. So
that is one-sixth of the population. When you take the other population
centers, it comes to a very significant number. The Taliban do not control asingle city.

are major agricultural areas. These depend very heavily on five river systems.
And again the highways and others.

third are pastures and then the mountains. So most when we say 'freedom of
movement', they have freedom of movement because of their networks. But control
is not defined negatively. Any Talib wants a passport or an identity card or
health services depends on the government. They have not been unlike the
Chinese or Vietnamese created an alternative system of
delivery    .

main issue, however, is their negative power which the Loya Jirga and people of
Afghanistan acknowledged is the destructive power of killing citizens,
attacking hospitals, attacking universities, attacking caravans, so because of
this very factor, it is not the positive vision, it is the negative driver of
war that the society acknowledges, that requires a solution and because of that
we are bound to seek solution. And because we put it first on the agenda, the
excitement, but also the anxiety that comes with needing to see a changed
context is prevalent around this.

Mr. President. many Afghan opposition politicians appear to be jumping on the
band like the US and Taliban talks, possibly to secure their political futures,
only a deal or perhaps because they are not convinced that there is an
alternative. Can you give us some insights into your peace plan?

Ashraf Ghani: Well. First my peace plan is inclusive. In the last
round in Doha where members of civil society, women's group, Ulema, youth, a
cross section of the society has really participated. The defense of the
Republic spontaneously but very clearly has taken place. When we say
politicians, these are not political parties that have large constituencies.
Are they self-appointed. The fundamental issue is the government of Afghanistan
is the elected representative of the people. Unless we agree, nothing moves.
Can a group of politicians release their political prisoners or engage with
them? That is the authority of the government so clearly, our peace plan is the

build a coalition for peace where the message is of all international and
regional actors are coherent. When they talk separately one by one with
Taliban, it elevates their sense of importance. That does not reflect ground
reality and medium and long-term interests of the international actors.

differentiate between dialogue and negotiations.
What happened in Doha in the last round, thanks to the Germans, we greatly
appreciate and facilitated by the Baika foundation – a foundation with immense
credibility – is dialogue. In a dialogue, we need to get to know each other. It
was extraordinary revealing for the participants, I spent two hours with them,
to understand the difference between image and what they now consider the
reality of the Taliban. The conclusion is you need to prepare for very
intensive and hard bargain.

third is negotiation. Negotiation has to take place between…dialogue is
inclusive; negotiation is focused among the two principle parties. And in terms
of seeking an agreement, we seek an agreement in two phases. A preliminary
agreement or a framework agreement prior to the election hopefully by 1st of
September. And then a comprehensive agreement, after that.

lastly is the question of implementation. I have reviewed more than a hundred
peace agreements. It is something like I have spent a lifetime working on, we
need to get it right. An enduring peace requires a lot of issues and that… so
each of the peace components has different partners, different alignment,
different coalitions. And central to this and all of this is again the
mechanism of public citizen-based endorsement.

The policies of regional states are crucial to matters of war and peace. are
they buying in to your proposal for regional connectivity?

Ashraf Ghani: Absolutely, on regional connectivity we are really getting to
action. Four and half years ago, Afghanistan was considered landlocked isolated
country. Today it is in the process of becoming an Asian Roundabout. What we
have done with our Central Asian neighbors and beyond them, Central Asia 5 and
the Caucuses. I think it is stounding, you know. There is such a world that has
opened in terms of making sure.

location for 200 years was a disadvantage. In the next 100 years, I think it is
going to be the most valuable asset this country has if we have the wisdom to
articulate it. And Central Asia is the shortest way of connecting Asia;
Afghanistan is the center of this. South Asia is the least connected part of
the world in terms of regional connectivity and equally a region starved for
energy. The engine of growth that India has created cannot be fueled without
further power, in Pakistan there is desperate for power. So in this we are
repositioning, we are not only getting concept, but the proof of concept is now
there, particularly vis-à-vis power and natural gas and transport that is

second issue is, the region is in the process of transformation that only the
United States witnessed roughly between 1840 and 1869. Asia is becoming a
continental economy. Inter-Asia trade is larger now than Asia's trade with the
rest of the world. In this environment, the transport revolution, the
connectivity revolution, the fiber optics is key. So essential to this is
change of perspective. In the short term, some of actors, of course, have taken
an insurance policy probably vis-à-vis the Taliban, but in medium-term which we
take a perspective of ten years, a functioning government in Afghanistan is
essential to regional stability and connectivity. I think we are getting to
actions because a lot still to do.

You mentioned Pakistan, a couple of times already. You were recently in
Pakistan where I believe you had several meetings. Can you give us a sense of
where you think Pakistan is standing on this and what role do you think they
are playing in the ongoing negotiations?

Ashraf Ghani: Well. First, I found my discussion with Prime Minister
Khan constructive when he brought the army chief and the ISI chief and others
to a discussion and equally with the business community of Pakistan and across
the board with their cabinet. I asked a series of direct questions and I got

first is, is it in Pakistan's interest to have the Taliban run on Afghanistan?
The answer is no. Is it in Pakistan's national interest to have a dependent
government in Kabul? They said not possible and not in their interests. Three,
is connectivity to their interest and therefore, the stability of Afghanistan?
And the answer is yes.

I think
at the level of intention, we have had a change of perspective, thanks to Prime
Minister Khan and General Bajwa and his colleagues. Now we are focusing on
getting the details right. But simultaneously one has to understand that this
change of perspective in the top does not mean immediately the change of
perspective in the middle. The undeclared war launched from Pakistan against
Afghanistan is continuing. Terrorist groups still have sanctuary and bases of
support in the network of Madrasas, where they are moving again for the first
time. The government of Pakistan is changing the curriculum of the Madrassas.

main issue for Pakistan which Prime Minister Khan has repeatedly said, is have
the policies of the past gained Pakistan or cost Pakistan? On that question
depends the future of our relationship. Our goal is relation, full cooperation
between two sovereign states. We are able to create mutual interest.

And in
terms of connectivity in the talk I gave in Islamabad, I tackled the question
directly, saying what kind of guaranties we will create in order to make sure
that this huge co-dependence that would be brought to cooperation on power, on
gas, on connectivity, on fiber optics and others. And there, there is a
framework, we can offer political guarantees. We can offer escrow account and
penalties. We can offer management guarantees. And we can offer social and
environmental guarantees so we have thought our relationship through, we think
we can work. Now it is going to depend…

literally is a vital question for Pakistan. Pakistan potentially is an
extraordinarily productive country with a role to play. But policies of the
past have gotten it to   isolation and to a level where the crisis of
indebtedness and poverty increased rather than poverty reduction is haunting
its future. Prime Minister Khan is really dedicated to poverty eradication. If
the agenda of poverty eradication, environment, connectivity that we all share
becomes the basis, then I think we can move forward. But a lot depends on the
decisions that are taken in the months to come.

On the issue of security, Taliban is not the only armed group operating in the
country. At the moment there is also Daesh and others. And there is a lot of
debate over the capacity of the Afghan National Defense and Security forces to
defend the state. Do you think that the Afghan national security forces can
stand alone or will they continue to need foreign support for some time to

Ashraf Ghani: Well. There are two components to that. And thank you for the
question. First let me pay tribute to the bravery, dedication and patriotism of
our forces. When I became president, do not forget all the commentators were giving
us six months and saying the forces will collapse. They have gone from strength
to strength. I did not intend, all my life I prepared to construct, not lead a
war. But as commander-in-chief I made extraordinary proud of the forces. We
have reformed our security forces. Things that will being resisted. There is a
new generation of officers, that the non-commissioned officers and the soldiers
are superb. The issue was in system and process and management and leadership.

this year, particularly in the last six month, my colleagues have done an
extraordinary job. This is one side of the thing because we filled a gap left
by the departure of one hundred thousand international troops that again I had
the honor during President Karzai to design and manage that process.

second part is question of terrorism. It is not our problem alone. That is a
regional and international problem. Why do we insist on following on reaching
peace deal with the Taliban because Taliban provide the local platform for
these other groups?

too, initially came on their platform, now that they are fighting. Taking them
out, out of the fight, will change the problem of violence to foreign invaders.
Then the society can mobilize. But here Afghanistan is the frontline of both regional
security and global security. We are fighting on behalf of every single
country. Because of that regional cooperation is not something that we request
as a charity. But something that is required as part of joint contribution. The
numbers are flexible. The more we strengthened, the less the number required
and equally the financial resources. I am confident that within four to five
years with the growth of the economy and the connectivity agenda, our need for
financial resources will decline substantially as for numbers, but we need to
arrive at different scenarios; it depends on the scenarios, there is not one

You had once mentioned the plan to US President Donald Trump on an idea, on how
to cut cost without abandoning Afghanistan. Were there any follow up

Ashraf Ghani: Yes, Absolutely. We have had continuous discussions. And I
am very pleased that we are doing cost cutting. We have also had detail
discussion on numbers, reduction at our request can take place to both bring
economizing and more efficiency. And the key of this again has been the
performance of our security forces which are really taking the lead and getting
stronger by the day.

You have served as president, finance minister and at the World Bank. This is
analogy to look at Afghanistan from many different perspectives. What do you
think are the enduring challenges facing Afghanistan?

Ashraf Ghani: We have five key issues. One is building a state that
represents, and it can only be a democratic state, the wishes and aspirations
of our people, particularly our women and youth. I hope that what I have shown
during this four and half years that the Afghan women are second to none, and
that the youth have a level of energy, talent and creativity that allows them
to truly own. I see myself as a bridge for this process.

second issue is building a market. The world private sector has become a catch
all, but that word was first used in 1946. You need functioning market institutions
to utilize the immense natural capital of Afghanistan and move it forward. So
we are engaged in—last year we were the top reformer in the World Bank doing
business indicators, but you may need to create…

third process is peace building. Without peace, without enduring peace, the
cost of war is so destructive. But building peace requires the overcoming the
last forty years.

And the
fourth is strengthening the process of national unity and nation building.
Because without a nation where every citizen feels that she or he is equal to
every other citizen and not lesser, that requires social programs. And our
culture, I hope, has been brought to your attention, a lot of our buildings,
the icons of our identity were wiped out. I am restoring them in a massive
program. In the pride taken in some of these buildings is much larger that some
of our development projects because it deals with identity. Afghanistan is a
multilingual country and we have small identities but our strength is our
diversity and we are confident that each Afghan regardless of the language that
he or she speaks feels much more connected to this home. And this process also
means bringing our diaspora and our refugees back in. We are close to four
million refugees, a million diaspora at OECD countries including Turkey. They
are immensely talented. You know, one of the benefits of this tragedy has been
a human capital at the diaspora that is stunning.

And the
fifth is regional connectivity. You cannot develop of a country in the 21st century
through autarchy; it has to be through connectivity.

five processes, I think, will bring us to a place where Afghanistan would be
able after much pain to harness its passion to development and to stability and
peace and return to our culture of hospitality that we have offered the world,
for two thousand and half years, prior to the tragedies of the 20th century.

There is a great deal of talk at the moment about the possibility of US-Taliban
peace deal being reached in a very near future, possibly in the coming weeks.
If a peace deal is achieved in the coming weeks, how would that impact the

Ashraf Ghani: It will not impact the elections. First thing we need to
differentiate the peace that will impact the elections. It is the peace between
the Afghan government and Taliban, not peace between US and Taliban. As I said
it is series of linkages

our agreement with the US and our other interlocutors is to seek a preliminary
peace, a framework agreement before the elections. The election is critical
because election is a certain process, it is a mandated process by the
constitution. And the next leader of Afghanistan, whether it is I or someone
else, must have a mandate for peace because peace is going to require hard
decisions, hard bargaining, and being able to sell it back to Afghan people. It
means, they have to buy in to peace.

Colombia, President Santos immensely dedicated his life, but he lost the
plebiscite so we need to make sure that it is not just at the table. The table
is one component both before we sit. This peace must be shaped and then peace
must be endorsed and embraced. We are dedicated to the election and again all
our international partners including the United States are fully supportive.
And for the first time, we are paying most of the expenses of the election. We
are paying 90 million dollars of our own money to make sure that our national
imperative is carried out.

And all these talk of an interim government?

Ashraf Ghani: That is nonsense. And no government has the right,
democratically elected government has the right to dissolve itself. By what
authority will an interim government be created?

Ok now Mr. President. Given the long historical relationship between Turkey and
Afghanistan, do you see a larger role for Turkey in the near future?

Ashraf Ghani: Well. You know how we describe our relationship with Turkey;
short, medium, near, long and very long-term without an expiry date. We have
had relations for thousands of years. Afghan-Turks have been parts of our great
and glorious civilization long before Turkey became Turkey, we have had a
Turkish component. Our Turkic languages, Uzbeki and Turkmeni are our third
largest languages. Our relationship has gone past 100 years. Turkey is very
active in Afghanistan. Do not forget, the second commander of the international
security forces in Afghanistan was General Zorlu, a Turk. Turkey has been a
very significant member of ISAF first and then the Resolute Support mission and
our economic relations with Turkey are improving, particularly now that
Azerbaijan has connected by railway to the port of Jaihan. It is opened up
upon, you know our first trucks, TIR trucks, reached Istanbul. We are going
through strength to strength. And Turkey as the significant previous chairman
of the Islamic Organization, as a regional power and as a global actor is
critical to our discussion. And we are very confident not only that our
relations will solidify, but go to further strength.

Finishing up, where do you see Afghanistan in five years? 

Ashraf Ghani: A self-confident country, self-reliant as a hub of
regional connectivity, a platform for global and regional cooperation, a place
where women and men will be able to claim the heritage and deeply Islamic
country both civilizationally and constitutionally where our constitution is
judged the most Islamic country, a country that would have healed some of its
deep wounds and then would be embarking on a path of true glory for the rest of
the 21stcentury.  But also there are dangers and risks so we
cannot… That is the Afghanistan I want. It is now up to other interlocutors
and the political debate and discussions takes playing to the people of
Afghanistan that they want. I am confident that Afghans of today are embracing
the vision that I am articulating because in that vision they see themselves.
And I hope that succession becomes a regular routine process where the torches
passed to the younger generation and with their capabilities team work,
national unity and a sense of regional and global understanding. They will take
this ship to destination.

Thank you very much for your time, Mr. President.

Ashraf Ghani: Thank you. Thank you for coming.


Stability in Afghanistan come only through a democratic system: President Ghani


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