President Ashraf Ghani on Friday said he is not an obstacle to peace, but he is a champion in peace in Afghanistan, responding to the Taliban’s remarks expressed early in the day who blamed the incumbent government for hindering the efforts to end the conflicts through a political settlement.
Addressing the ASPEN Security Forum, President Ghani highlighted the Afghan peace process, the fight against Daesh, and the rumors about the establishment of an interim government as a result of a potential peace agreement with the Taliban.
Ghani rejected the prospect for the establishment of an interim government in the country in the wake of the past experience and said that he has sworn in to uphold the constitution of the nation. He said election is the way forward to transfer of power.
“We must agree on the date of the election so that we have the full legal transfer of the authority. We have had interim governments. They’ve led to bloodshed. People of Kabul, Kabul was destroyed in 1992 by an interim government. A prime minister was bombarding his president and the president had to fight back with the prime minister. The prime minister, Mr. Hekmatyar, never came to Kabul,” Ghani said.
“The citizens of Afghanistan must be empowered… Where would I get the authority to dissolve the Republic? I have sworn to uphold the constitution,” Ghani said, apparently referring to a key Taliban negotiator’s remarks who said they will agree on peace when Ghani steps down from power.
Ghani said the current level of violence should be considered when it comes to plans to withdraw forces from the country.
“Now, robust diplomacy and a stand on condition-based approaches will enable us all hopefully to resume meaningful discussion and this would be a predictable process where all the US government, the military side, the intelligence side and the diplomatic side, would be engaged and the decisions would be predictable which would allow us to adjust,” Ghani said. “We must ask what is required to preserve the legacy of the US presence in Afghanistan.”
President Ghani said that no one should underestimate “our resolve” and that “none of us has plans to live somewhere else or abandon this country that has suffered so much.”
Ghani said there should be a strong verification mechanism for the Taliban’s commitments.
“You have to have ironclad agreements and verification mechanisms… Many peace agreements are Trojan horses. They promise the moon and deliver the opposite,” he reiterated.
The Taliban’s Narrative of Peace
Earlier in the day, Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the deputy head of the Taliban’s negotiating team, at a press conference in Moscow said the incumbent government is the “only hurdle” for the Afghan peace process.
Stanekzai said the Taliban should not be expected to lay down their arms as long as the international troops remain in the country.
“You witnessed that Mr. Ashraf Ghani made different statements… Even in one of his statements, he said that if a future government is established, he should be the leader, the president,” Stanekzai said. “You can see that they are lobbying NATO and the US to prolong their government.”
“Ashraf Ghani’s administration is the only hurled for peace… One of their insincerity is that their (Afghan Republic’s negotiating) team has not been given full authority for talks,” Stanekzai added, reiterating that the Taliban’s negotiating team has the authority to make decagons on the table of negotiations about peace-related matters.
The Afghan peace process is now taking new directions in view of the arrival of President Joe Biden's administration in the US.
The Pentagon said Thursday that the Biden administration would not commit to a full drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan by May because the Taliban have not honored the commitments they made in their agreement with the United States signed in Doha last year in February.
“The Taliban have not met their commitments,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in his first press conference on Thursday. “Without them meeting their commitments to renounce terrorism and to stop the violent attacks on the Afghan national security forces, and by dint of that the Afghan people, it's very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement.”
Referring to the Pentagon's statement, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said that they are "fully committed to all clauses of the Doha agreement and they are implementing their own part.
"The implementation of the Doha agreement is the only solution to the ongoing conflict," he said. "We also urge the United States to fully adhere to the agreement."
This comes at a time that a peace delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is currently in Doha since September 12 where they try to finalize the agenda of the formal talks with the Taliban.
Last week a member of the republic negotiating team said that the Taliban are not willing to attend the negotiations due to unspecified reasons.
In the latest development, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone conversation with Ghani discussed the Afghan peace process and the US commitment to an enduring US-Afghan partnership.
“The Secretary highlighted robust diplomatic support for the peace process focused on helping the parties to the conflict achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire that benefits all Afghans,” the US Department of State said in a statement.