President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday defended his legacy of the past five years, saying the country made significant achievements in various fields including security and counter-terrorism.
Speaking on a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ghani said that five years ago there were over 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan—with 100,000 of them Americans—and there were rumours that the country would collapse once the foreign forces withdrew. However, he said, all the predictions proved false and Afghanistan survived and is making progress today.
“The Afghan security forces have emerged as a significant force, our commandos are second to none in the region, our air force is tripled, our commandos and special forces have doubled. We have taken eight districts back from the Taliban,” he said.
Ghani also met a number of world leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump. According to Ghani’s spokesman, the leaders talked about the situation in Afghanistan, peace and regional security. Trump told Ghani that there cannot be meaningful negotiations until the Taliban significantly reduces violence, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.
Ghani said that the Afghan security forces also dealt major blows to the Daesh insurgents in the eastern parts of the country. Daesh—for the first time in eastern Afghanistan—a thousand of them surrendered,” he said.
The Afghan President noted that the Afghan people are optimistic about their future, saying that prior to the presidential elections, 65 per cent of Afghans claimed to believe that the country is moving in the right direction.
On the possible withdrawal of foreign forces, Ghani said, “Security is a problem but we are going in the right direction. The Resolute Support Mission is an instrument, the key issue is the bilateral security agreement between United States and Afghanistan and the Status of Forces Agreement between Afghanistan and NATO.”
He was referring to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) signed between the U.S. and Afghanistan in 2014. This agreement allows the U.S. forces to remain in the country post-2014. “The numbers can adjust, increase or decrease. A decrease in this moment will have no material impact on our capacity and our willingness to ensure moving forward,” Ghani assured.
On his relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, he said: “I have no problems dealing with President Trump. I am one of the few leaders who have an excellent relationship with President Trump, including today’s conversation we had, because I frame my relationship based on priorities.”
“Negotiation with the Taliban is a means. The desire of the Afghan people is to see the end of the violence. If the Taliban are ready to end the violence, the Afghan society is ready to reintegrate them,” said Ghani.
He said it depends very much on the Taliban to end the war and violence in Afghanistan. “Our security is not the responsibility of the United States. It is our own responsibility. We need to be able to secure our future. Afghan society has seen 40 years of violence. They have to see the end of violence and now it depends very much on the Taliban to end the violence,” he said.
Ghani also vowed not to tolerate what he described as ‘gender apartheid’ against Afghan women. “No Afghan woman, as long as I am alive and in the position of responsibility, is going to be subject to gender apartheid. The Afghan society has changed. Are the Taliban sufficiently ready to engage,” the President asked.
Ghani said that all wars must end politically and that there is a need to find a political end to the war gripping Afghanistan today. He said the good news is that the ranking Taliban fighters are sick of fighting.
He lashed out at the Taliban leaders in Doha: “The people sitting in Doha are getting their fourth or fifth wives and are enjoying themselves. They have become investors.”
Earlier, Taliban spokesman Suhain Shaheen told Arab News in a phone conversation that Taliban representatives are holding talks with U.S. negotiators in Qatar to create a “safe atmosphere” for the signing of a peace agreement.
“There had been no discussion on ceasefire since the beginning but the U.S. proposed reduction in violence and our stance is to provide a safe atmosphere during the days of the agreement,” Shaheen was quoted by Arab News as saying.
The reconvened peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban are progressing, according to a Taliban spokesperson, while the Afghan government insists on a ceasefire.