President Ashraf Ghani gave an interview to TRT world on Tuesday and expressed that the fundamental issue is stability in Afghanistan which 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. The 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 the republic.”
He reiterated that peace must take place within the concept of the republic, not the concept of the Emirates.
On Peace Process
Ghani said that any peace process has a phase of preparing for an agreement, concluding an agreement & then acquiring an endorsement, wherein 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.
However, according to him, the discussions between the U.S. & Taliban are focused on four components, wherein, as expressed repeatedly by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. In this scenario, Ghani clarified that the government of Afghanistan has asked for a review of the level of American present troops as early as January so there is no disagreement on that issue.
With the question of Taliban’s commitment as compared to their relations with terrorist networks, president Ghani highlighted that it “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.”
Ghani said that third area between US-Taliban Talks, the ceasefire, which was seen successfully done in 2018, was actually brought about by him.
And finally, fourth issue of intra-afghan talks wherein talk government of Afghanistan and the Taliban discuss, is what he said considered as something “we need to Negotiate”.
President Ghani also pointed out about the relation of the Taliban to the criminal economy and drug trade, another critical role of Taliban’s relationship with Pakistan. “To say that concessions are being made, I think it is premature. We’ve started an earnest process where the political will both of the Afghan government, the U.S have been clearly made”, Ghani said.
President Ghani remarked that all peace processes are complicated, but the goal of seeking peace as the earlier Loya Jirga had articulated is the goal for the realization for which he is dedicated.
On Who Controls More Territory in Afghanistan
When asked as to who controls more territory in Afghanistan, Ghani said, “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. 2nd, Most of the population of Afghanistan is in the cities. Kabul has at least around 5-million in the province, 1/6 of Afghan Population. It comes to a very significant number. The Taliban do not control a single city.”
On His Inclusive Peace Plan
Ghani also clarified and assured that his 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”.
Talking about self-styled politicians who claim to belong to insurgent groups, he said that such people are neither from political parties that have large constituencies and are merely 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”, Ghani said.
Ghani explained his peace plan as:
Firstly, building a coalition for peace where the messages of all international & regional actors are coherent. “When they talk separately with Taliban, it elevates their sense of importance. That doesn’t reflect ground reality & long-term interests of the international actors”, he said.
Secondly, differentiating between dialogue & negotiations, “What happened in Doha in the last round, thanks to the Germans, we greatly appreciate and it was facilitated by the Baika foundation – a foundation with immense credibility”.
He explained that in a dialogue, the delegates need to get to know each other and in that context, the Doha intra-Afghan dialogue was extraordinary revealing for the participants.
Thirdly, Ghani said, the plan for peace is a negotiation, which is among the two principle parties, “In terms of seeking an agreement, we seek it in 2 phases. A preliminary or a framework agreement prior to the election & then a comprehensive agreement, after that.”
“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”, he explained.
On Elections and Interim Government
Talking about elections, he first assured that the peace deal will not impact the elections. He also said that their agreement with the US & other interlocutors is to seek a preliminary peace, a framework agreement before the elections. “The election is critical because the election is a certain process; it is a mandated process by the constitution”, he said.
Finally, he opined that the idea of an interim government at this juncture is ‘“nonsense” and clarified that no other government has the right, but only the democratically elected government has the right to dissolve itself.
“By what authority will an interim government be created? Afghanistan in 5 years is: A self-confident country, self-reliant as a hub of regional connectivity, a platform for global & regional cooperation, a place where women & men will be able to claim the heritage & deeply Islamic country both civilization & constitutionally”, he conceded.
Ahmad Shah Karimi contributed reporting.