Our Goal Is Not Winning Militarily But A Political Settlement For Lasting Peace: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani
Defeating Taliban is our job; the period of international engagement or use of force in Afghanistan is over, said Ghani
In a recent interview, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani talked about the future of the country after withdrawal of the foreign troops, and the role of Pakistan in ensuring the stability in Afghanistan.
This comes shortly after Ghani's fiery speech against Pakistani government, accusing them of not stopping Jihadists crossing the border to support the Taliban; and not using its links with the Taliban to push them towards a settlement with the Afghan government.
On 15 July, Afghanistan's Vice President Amrullah Saleh claimed that the Pakistan Air Force was providing close air support to the Taliban forces fighting the Afghan National Army.
According to Saleh, Pakistan had warned the Afghan military against attempts to dislodge the Taliban from the Spin Boldak area, which lies in the southeastern part of Afghanistan, on the border with Balochistan. It was at the border with Pakistan at the Spin Boldak-Chaman crossing, where Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed last week.
This comes in the backdrop of rapid advances made by the Taliban in the country, capturing towns and border check-posts.
In the interview to The Hindu, Ghani said, "Winning battles is not winning the war. They [the Taliban] have won battles. But, they’re going to lose the war, and we are determined.” He also said that he would keep dialogue open with both Islamabad and the Taliban to reach a "political settlement", adding that he didn't want Afghanistan to turn into “Algeria, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen”.
While intra-Afghan talks have been in limbo for a while, an Afghan delegation led by High Council chief Abdullah Abdullah reportedly travelled to Doha on Saturday to begin “high-level” talks with the Taliban. The talks are facilitated by the Qatar government.
President Ghani said that he was open to an engagement with Pakistan for peace in Afghanistan, and that it would require trust building. He said:
"We need Pakistan for peace. We need an enduring relationship, a predictable relationship with Pakistan. We need to overcome our past, and building trust is going to require clarity, so we do not carry a burden, and then do not have the political capital or the vision to move forward."
He also hinted that Pakistan's continued support to Taliban military ventures would only anger the Afghan people, and will find expression in destructive ways.
"We are a plain-speaking people. And I need to reflect with logic and rigour, about the emotions of our people… because if they are not given expression, they will find other channels, and I don’t want further destructive relationships between us," he said.
He also stated that Afghan government will continue to engage with Taliban leadership for a political settlement. He said:
"We are going ahead with the dialogue [with the Taliban]. We had a frank and good exchange today [with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan]. Without a dialogue, you cannot get through. So we have to peel the layers and get to the heart of the matter."
"From the perspective of a medium-term and long-term interest of Pakistan, a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan would not be in their interest. Taking this genie out of the bottle is going to have consequences for the entire region. Particularly for Pakistan, and hence, [I gave] my speech with clarity," he said.
President Ghani also categorically denied asking for military support from India, calling it a “true partner” in Afghanistan’s development. “This [defeating Taliban] is our job. The period of international engagement, or use of force in Afghanistan is over,” he said.
"India has been a remarkable partner. I have the best of relations with the Prime Minister [Narendra Modi], who is wise. He has not asked of us something that will result in sacrificing our short, medium or long-term interests. India is a true partner," he said.
He further highlighted that Afghanistan had a positive balance of trade with India. "What India stands for is the Salma dam, is the parliament building. It’s now the Shahtoot dam. It’s the transmission lines. And India is going to be booming. We want to be a participant in the immense shift that India is witnessing in terms of leadership of the fourth industrial revolution," he said.
He also said that the allegations of Pakistan that India had seven bases in Afghanistan were complete fabrications.
Security Situation In Afghanistan
When asked about military advances of the Taliban, Ghani conceded that the group had won battles, but at the same time emphasized that Afghan military will win the war. "They (the Taliban) have won battles. But, they're going to lose the war, and we are determined," he said.
He also added that Afghan government's goal was not winning the war militarily but to arrive at a "political settlement that will ensure a just and lasting peace."
"Mazar Sharif in 2002 was a small town. Hardly with 20 buildings and those were dilapidated. Today, it's a thriving metropolis. In 1991, I saw Khost looted, and today it is thriving and its airport was a dream come true, better than the Kabul airport.. It is 40 years that we’ve been denied our collective right to peace. We are not a people that are going to take that lying down. That’s not our history."
When asked if Afghan government would expect the international community to come back and help dislodge the Taliban if it captures power by force, Ghani replied in negative. "No. This is our job. The period of international engagement, or use of force in Afghanistan is over," he said, adding that he was confident that that will not happen.
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