President Ashraf Ghani says that withdrawal of part of US forces from Afghanistan as part of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban will not impact the lives of Afghans who have reached to the point that peace is their basic need.
In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews on Thursday, Mr. Ghani said he requested a reduction in the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a letter to President Donald Trump seven months ago but reiterated that a decrease in number forces will be conditions-based.
“The number of troops has not been mentioned in the bilateral agreement [between Afghanistan and the US] and in multilateral agreement with NATO… Reduction or increase in the number of troops is conditions-based,” he said.
In response to a question that will 5,000 troops will leave the country in 135 days from five bases in Afghanistan, Mr. Ghani said discussions are ongoing in this regard.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Mr. Ghani added.
Reports indicate that the 5,000 US troops will withdraw from five bases in the country.
Mr. Ghani said the five bases are small and that they will be handed to the Afghan forces.
“Five thousand personnel will not bring basic changes in our lives because the remaining number will support our Air Force, our Commando Force, and other Defense and Security Forces and will help the Resolute Support to continue [its mission in Afghanistan],” Mr. Ghani said.
He said that he does not believe in his previous comments that the country will fall in six months after withdrawal of foreign forces. He added that he has brought reforms in Afghan forces which will help them to defend the country against any types of threats.
Mr. Ghani said the barrier on the way of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban is the presence of the international forces but the Taliban’s relations with Pakistan and terrorist networks and drug trafficking groups is another issue in this respect.
The Afghan president said his government has initiated the peace efforts and the talks between the US and the Taliban.
“The talks between the US and the Taliban would have not been impossible without the initiative of the Afghan government,” he said. “This includes unconditional talks and ceasefire and convincing of the international community.”
Mr. Ghani said that the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation was appointed after consultation and agreement of the Afghan government.
He mentioned that at this point, the presence of the Afghan government in the talks between the US and the Taliban is not necessary.
“Our presence is not necessary there [in Doha]. Our presence is required in the direct negotiations,” Mr. Ghani said, reiterating that a peace deal will only be signed by the Afghan government.
“The agreement between a government a group does not have a legal ground,” he said, referring to a possible peace deal between the US and the Taliban which is expected to be signed within the next few days.
According to him, the details of the peace agreement will be disclosed after it is finalized and shared with the Afghan government.
Last month, the Afghan government announced that a 15-member negotiating team has been finalized which will conduct direct negotiations with the Taliban in the near future.
Mr. Ghani said the team will be finalized as soon as the next few days.
The Afghan president did not provide details about members of the team but said it will be announced close to start of direct negotiations.
“I am not announcing the team to make sure that the crisis of the UAE is not repeated,” Mr. Ghani said, hinting at the formation of a 250-member team who were supposed to attend talks with the Taliban in back June.
In response to a question that whether he is ready to postpone the election in exchange for a ceasefire, Mr. Ghani said Taliban is part of the country and they are not supposed to determine the fate of the country.
“Election is the right of the people of Afghanistan and they will decide to have a legitimate government,” he said.
Mr. Ghani said the Afghan government will appear from a strong position in negotiations with the Taliban.
“We will meet the Taliban with dignity, power, and strength and will hold serious negotiations with them,” he reiterated.
“If the US president wants to withdraw, it is their national decision. My national decision is to maintain Afghanistan’s republic [government],” Mr. Ghani said.
Mr. Ghani said the Taliban is a “platform for international terrorism”. “Without this platform, terrorists were not able to find a footprint among Afghans,” he said.