President Ghani hopeful ‘real’ dialogue will bring peace to Afghanistan

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KABUL: President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani addressing NATO’s Engages event co-hosted by the Atlantic Council in Brussels on Thursday said 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,”  he added.

“[Trump] has a style and you need to be able to make your case succinctly,” said President Ghani. “And I’m proud to say that we have made our case succinctly.”

Further, President 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 in to 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 the president. “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, President 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.”

President 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,” the president 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.”

Atlantic Council President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Kempe asked President Ghani about Afghanistan’s relationships with its neighbors as it tries to build peace.

“In the region a consensus is emerging,” President 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, President 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, President 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.”

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