BRUSSELS: President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday unlike the past now there was a ‘real’ and ‘constructive’ dialogue on bringing peace to Afghanistan — an effort based on mutual trust.
“Afghanistan is a subject of consensus, it is not a subject of dissent,” Ghani told the NATO Engages event co-hosted by the Atlantic Council here.
On Wednesday, NATO allies agreed to provide financial support to the alliance mission in Afghanistan through 2024. Additionally, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Thursday 12 that the United Kingdom would be sending 440 more non-combat personnel to Afghanistan in support of the mission.
NATO currently has nearly 16,000 troops in Afghanistan, 14,000 of which are Americans. Ghani is convinced that even as the Trump administration reviews the cost of drawing down US troops in other parts of the world, the US president will not abandon Afghanistan.
“[Trump] has a style and you need to be able to make your case succinctly,” said Ghani. “And I’m proud to say that we have made our case succinctly.”
Further, Ghani added, “this strategy on Afghanistan has been thoroughly prepared.” The Afghan leader addressed skepticism about his positive take on the situation in Afghanistan. The Afghan president contended that as NATO troops had been drawn down, Afghan security forces had stepped into prevent a security vacuum from being left behind.
“Journalists look for events, I look for patterns. People who look for events have always gotten the situation wrong,” said Ghani. “A sense of perspective is really important to see where we began and where we are going,” he added. Citing the progress Afghanistan has made on his watch, Ghani said his country today is deeply engaged with Central Asia, a region with which it is setting historic trade records.
He contended that Afghanistan is not alone in facing security challenges. “There is uncertainty about global security—Belgium, Germany, France, UK. It is no longer [just] Afghanistan,” he said, adding that “the phenomena of transnational terrorism… is a network phenomenon.”
Ghani continues to hold firm to the belief that a political solution with the Taliban is vital in order to bring peace to his country. The Taliban, however, have rebuffed his overtures demanding instead to sit down with the United States.
“Unless we find a political solution with the Taliban, the platform—the set of activities, networks, relationships—the Taliban provide enable these other groups to function. So it’s extremely important that we find a political solution,” Ghani said.
“The threat of Daesh is another order of threat than the one that al Qaeda was,” said Ghani. “Our misfortune is that [Daesh] look at us as territory, ecology, a set of opportunities.”
In its statement, NATO called on Pakistan, Iran, and Russia to “contribute to regional stability by fully supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.”
Atlantic Council President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Kempe asked Ghani about Afghanistan’s relationships with its neighbors as it tries to build peace.
“In the region a consensus is emerging,” Ghani said, noting that India and China have agreed to cooperate on the question of Afghanistan, and Afghanistan has made some progress with Pakistan.
“On paper, we have had very significant movement with Pakistan,” the Afghan leader said, while expressing the hope that this will translate into action. “Our relation with Pakistan has to become three dimensional, it has been unidimensional. Everything has been shadowed by their relationship with the Taliban.” Despite these challenges, Ghani remains optimistic. “The finishing line is going to be full of hurdles, but the direction has been set,” he said.
Asked about the role of women in the peace process, Ghani noted that they were part of the High Peace Council. “Afghan society has a consensus on making peace, it does not have a consensus on the price to be paid for peace,” he said.
He addressed concerns that women were being left out of the peace process and said “women are always on top of the agenda.”