Dr. Ghani a theorist, thinker, World Bank economist and professor of John Hopkins University was elected as the president of Afghanistan following a controversial, problematic and contentious presidential election in 2014. Dr. Ghani and his election rival Dr. Abdullah were agreed to form the National Unity Government (NUG) proposed by the former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Both Dr. Ghani and Dr. Abdullah have reached a political agreement based on a power-sharing deal brokered by John Kerry. As per the deal Dr. Ghani became the president of Afghanistan and Dr. Abdullah accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer (a new horizontal role created as per the NUG structure for the runner-up of the 2014 election).
When the conflict ended, the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai congratulated them both for the deal and said,” “On behalf of the Afghan nation, I am congratulating them on this understanding and agreement,” Karzai left the legacy of recording himself as the first Afghan president in the history of Afghanistan who has facilitated a peaceful transformation of power under a democratic settings. It is apparently a great progress for Afghan infant and fragile democracy.
After the deal was negotiated, Dr. Abdullah said,” “No matter who won, we commit ourselves to working together for the sake of Afghanistan.”John Kerry in his speech about the deal he brokered said, “NUG is an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem” he further added that its clauses were in line with the country’s constitution.”While Dr. Ghani seemed less happy to reach such an expensive deal with his runner up for the election, he probably won; he said, “I hope this spirit of cooperation would continue, “like in the past, when Dr. Abdullah was the Foreign Minister and I was the Finance Minister of Afghanistan”.
Later, the Chief of Independent Election Commission of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ahmad Yousaf Nuristani in an official press conference declared Dr. Ghani as winner of the elections and announced the end of 2014 presidential election process. Many people think that election crisis of 2014 were the result of bad leadership in Independent Election Commission. They also argue that politicization of the commission and endemic corruption were the two other reasons for the failure in 2014 Election.
The NUG commenced its official work with an inherent problematic structure that brought two different political thinking under one umbrella, to govern one of the most challenging failed states in the world.
The NUG governors had many challenges to overcome including the challenge to overcome the flaws of the current government structure, the challenge of endemic corruption, the challenge of fighting warlords, economic and political mafia, the economic challenge, the challenge of rebuilding trust of Afghans on elections, government and democracy, the challenge of negotiating peace with Taliban, Hizb-e-Islamic and others insurgent groups that were threatening the national security of Afghanistan, the challenge of fighting with terrorists and safeguarding the regime and protecting the citizens of Afghanistan, the challenge of implementing widespread reforms, the challenge of revisiting relations with neighboring countries and rest of the world especially with the United States, the challenge of bringing Afghanistan back to the center of focus for the international community, the challenge of sustaining Afghanistan after major withdrawal of the U.S. and the NATO from Afghanistan and many other minor and major challenges.
When the NUG was suggested and formed, almost all the Afghan political leaders and analysts in general had consensus that working under this structure will be difficult for both the leaders, especially for Dr. Ghani because he is apparently desperate for transforming Afghanistan in a short period of time while the country was highly in a vulnerable state.
Dr. Ghani a visionary technocrat and thinker had faced several difficult challenges, but he was able to overcome most of them and progressively implemented his theories into practice by using adaptive and situational leadership. The first big challenge he faced was the division in his own team over power struggle and conflicting interests. It was an example of storming after forming in a typical team building process. The powerful technocrat and the Ex- Minister of Finance, Dr. Anwar-ul Haq Ahadi and many others have separated themselves from Dr. Ghani saying that he was corrupt to accept the NUG model.
The fragile power sharing deal brokered by John Kerry has been challenged from Chief Executive Office again and again during this period. Some people even started saying that Ghani is facing an internal opposition which made his reforms agenda difficult to be implemented.
In fact Jamiat-e-Islami that has 50% share of power in NUG, also occupy the opposition in the country. As a matter of fact Dr. Abdullah and his Jamiati cabinets are often acting more like an internal opposition than being part of the government.
In 2016, Dr. Abdullah angrily denounced his governing partner and said, “Ashraf Ghani is unfit to govern Afghanistan.” He added,” Ghani is making decisions unilaterally and failing to consult with him on appointments. The western media said that the power dispute between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah is imperiling Afghanistan’s fragile security and recent economic development. While Abdullah tried literally to end the legitimacy of Ghani’s government by declaring such paradoxical statements in the public, but Dr. Ghani was successful to controlling the situation. Eventually Dr. Ghani not only fixed these internal issues of the NUG, but also completely shattered the delusional dreams of Dr. Abdullah and could greatly flatten his political and social reputation and image.
Dr. Abdullah was under immense pressure from Jamiat-e- Islamic for failing to protect the interests of their ethnic constituents, but Dr. Ghani was able to create further tensions and encouraged dissent among Jamiat-e-Islami and Dr. Abdullah, to maintain control over them. As a result, now after couple of years from operations of the NUG, almost all the senior members of Jamiat-e- Islami have lost trust on the integrity and capacity of Dr. Abdullah to represent their party and govern the country.
This is a great progress for Dr. Ghani because Jamiat-e-Islami has been following ethno-nationalist, aristocratic and anti-Afghanistan policy throughout its political struggle in Afghanistan. Jamiat-e-Islami has never believed in a progressive and inclusive political agenda for Afghanistan. The power greed of Jamiat-e- Islami was one of the main reasons behind the failure of Mujahedeen’s regime after the defeat of Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the overthrow of Dr. Najibullah’s regime, Jamiat-e- Islami agreed to form a coalition government with Dr. Najibullah; but later they refused to allow anyone else than Jamiat-e- Islami and their alliance in power (Jamiat-e-Islami even didn’t allow Hizbe-e-Islami which was the largest Mujahedeen party fighting the soviets invasion in Afghanistan). The deal of Jamiat-e- Islami was one of the greatest committed mistakes of leftist president Dr. Najibullah.
Then, the problem of the Enlightening Movement of Afghanistan (Junbish-e- Roshanai) emerged. This movement has its roots to criticism upon the government decision to re-routing of the TUTAP power line from Hazara-dominated Bamyan province to Southern Salang Tunnel. It was also greatly welcomed by Hazara people because of systematic discrimination against Hazara in Afghanistan. I am sure no fair Afghan would reject the existence of discrimination against Hazara people in Afghanistan, but their demonstration for TUTAP power line was an agenda of destabilizing Afghanistan, influenced by neighboring country.
Since 2004 when the Constitution Law of Afghanistan was approved, Hazara and all other ethnicities were given equal rights in Afghanistan and as a result, the degree of racism in the country has greatly dwindled. If you look at the progress of Hazara community in Afghanistan since 2002, you will certainly conclude that this era is the golden era for Hazara people in Afghanistan. That is why it is wise to believe that government had no ethno-nationalistic consideration while deciding about the aforementioned project. While the government said that there were no discrimination involved in this decision, most Hazara still assume that the power line was deliberated re-routed to abandon Hazara access to electricity, which is nothing but a highly politically incongruous thinking.
A large number of Hazara protestors had gathered many times within and outside of Afghanistan to raise their voices against possible systematic discrimination. In one of their demonstration in Kabul a suicide bomber of ISIS killed at least 70 people which have furthered increased social unrest and tensions among Hazara. While demonstrations in line with legal boundaries are the rights of every Afghan as per the Constitution of Afghanistan, there were alleged elements of foreign conspiracy behind organizers of this movement.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) and National Security Council (NSC) and many political commentators and leaders raised doubts on the possible support of Iranian Government. Looking at the modern history of Afghanistan there is a little room for hesitation to say that the movement was by some means supported by the Iranian government. Haplessly, it is because there have been no Hazara people movements in the contemporary history of Afghanistan where Hazara are not being supported by Iranian regimes. This is because of Hazara’s religious dependency on Iran and also the theory that says minorities are easier to exploit and use them against their own people.
The aforementioned movement was strongly criticized by Pashtuns and some Tajik elites claiming that the goal of this movement wasn’t electricity and the movement was greatly influenced and financed from outside Afghanistan. Participation of people like Abdul Latif Pedram, Ahmad Behzad and other well-known anti-Afghanistan faces have greatly supported this allegation.
Dr. Ghani with the support of elites and political leaders of Hazara was able to resolve the uprisings after talking with the movement leaders. There are allegations from the side of Hazara elites that the leaders of this movement had privately brokered a deal with government upon not demonstrating again.
Whatever has been the method of pouring oil on troubled waters and bringing social rest to the country in such a fragile environment, ending the movement was essential for survival of the NUG. Dr. Ghani was able to calm the uprisings and get a respite to focus back on his reforms agenda to transform Afghanistan.
One of the major challenges before Dr. Ghani is the opposition led by the ex- president Karzai. It is said that Karzai regularly meeting with dissatisfied serving officials, generals, tribal chiefs and others groups. He has publicly criticized it on issues ranging from foreign policy to governance. Many political analysts and senior officials say ex-president Karzai seeks to divide the NUG to make a comeback or bring one of his own persons in the power. Most of Karzai senior officials including Karzai himself call the government “illegitimate” in private or even in media and are actively lobbying for a Loya Jirga (Grand/Large Council/Shura) or an early election.
There are strong allegations that Karzai has also supported the Enlightenment Movement. Karzai was also the main cause of creating and multiplying and ethnic grievances in the NUG. While Karzai still has the strongest opposition force in the country, Dr. Ghani was capable to foil his conspiracies and plans by threatening him disposing of corruption and frauds committed by Karzai and his team. The Kabul Bank scandal is one of the examples of such corruption cases.
Another challenge was the issue of General Dostum. General Dostum for almost 30 years is considered as one of the challenging side to work with. When Dr. Ghani selected General Dostum as his first vice-president many Pashtuns political leaders and elites quit supporting him. General Dostum was a ruthless pro-communist general, the one who supported Mujahedeen to overthrow Dr. Najibullah government and didn’t let him fly to India. General Dostum later performed a role as an armed U.S. ally against Taliban. Dostum is a reliable source of generating votes from Uzbeks. It is said that Dr. Ghani had grouped with Dostum only to gather votes from Uzbeks, because Dr. Ghani once in a BBC said that” Dostum is a well-known ruthless killer and warlord who has no mercy”.
Dostum has long been infamous for his cruelty throughout the past 30 years. His latest alleged victim was a 63-year-old former provincial governor named Ahmad Ishchi. He has accused Dostum on television of imprisoning him, beating him and ordering him raped. This was one of the greatest challenges to Dr. Ghani, because delivering justice would not only weaken his own side in the NUG but will also increase distrust among Uzbeks in Afghanistan. Many were thinking Dr. Ghani wouldn’t be able remove the strong man, but he was also under pressure from western donors to prosecute and suspend him from the office. Many Afghan analysts were calling this a make-or-break opportunity for Dr. Ghani to install the rule of law in the Afghan society where warlord culture has long prevailed.
With all these difficulties, Dr. Ghani was able to bring General Dostum under rule of law and justice. He was removed from his office and successfully exiled to Turkey. Dostum’s supporters argued that Ghani, who exploited General Dostum to get elected as president, by removing Dostum, tried to sideline Uzbeks and consolidated power in the hands of Pashtuns. While this was the riskiest move to Dr. Ghani, he was able to control the distrust in the country after Dostum Exile and yet made another victory.
Dr. Ghani who is infamous for his long hours working ability, progressive thinking, despotism, autocratic management style, microscopic analysis, anti-corruption attitude and strong conceptual and technical skills needed to straighten his government from inside. He in a dangerous move in 2017 fired Ahmad Zia Massoud as his Special Representative for Good Governance. Ahmad Zia Massoud, the brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud (the famous CIA favored fighter against Soviets, a warlord and guerrilla warfare leader who was declared as the national hero of Afghanistan after the overthrown of Taliban regime) and an ethnic Tajik was removed from his position by Dr. Ghani for undisclosed reasons. Massoud accused Ghani of political despotism, chauvinism, fascism and concentration of power in the hands of Pashtuns and warned the government for overthrown, but Ghani moved ahead and implemented his agenda of reforms in a more coherent, technical and inclusive manner.
It is said that Dr. Ghani decided to fire Massoud after finding that Massoud was not only misusing governmental funds and resources, but also creating divisions and tensions and trying to raise rebellion against Dr. Ghani. Dr. Ghani who is pretty serious about what he is doing as a president of Afghanistan, didn’t tolerate Massoud’s anti-government agenda and removed him.
It is worth to mention that Ahmad Zia Massoud in a recent controversial statement said that in the northern Afghanistan it is not Taliban but Jamiat-e-Islami and Junbish who are fighting against the government of Ghani. This is the most absurd thing in Afghanistan politics one can expect from a political leader who also served as the first vice-president of Afghanistan during ex-president Hamid Karzai’s regime.
The next political challenge before Dr. Ghani’s government was the challenge to remove Mr. Ata Muhammad Noor, the strongest governor of Afghanistan. Noor, a northern warlord from Jamiat-e- Islami was governing the strategic Balk province for more than a decade where he had not only gathered large amount of wealth, but also strengthened his political figure using the government resources.
To remove Noor and other horizontal power hubs in the country was one of Dr. Ghani’s campaign promises. Ghani has so far taken large risks to end up unofficial power hubs of warlords. It seems that he will continue doing this more aggressively in his last years of first term. While Dr. Ghani tried many times to terminate Noor, he was only successful to do this, when he could worsen relations between Dr. Abdullah and Noor.
Ghani’s office said on December 18, 2017 that Ghani approved the resignation of Atta Muhammad Noor, who had been governor of Balkh Province since 2004. In response to this Jamiat-e-Islami condemned the statement and said it was a “hasty, irresponsible and against the security decision by the president. They also said that this decision was in contradiction of the principles of the NUG. Ata Muhammad Noor in his speech to a group of supporters, which was aired on state television in the town of Balkh, urged people to keep to civil protest “for now,” but that they would resort to any means if the “oppression” increased and the government resorted to force. He called on Afghan security forces and the international community to stay out of the issue.
The removal of the governor, Ata Muhammad Noor greatly raised fears of additional political pressures on Ghani, because the president had already come under fire from rivals and former allies alike for his government’s style and inability to hold elections.
Noor was too irate and antagonistic during all his negotiations with the NUG; he was not able to control his temper and sentiments. He usually used impolite and politically incorrect language against Dr. Ghani and Dr. Abdullah. The Northern Tajik supporters of Noor called him the only free and respected leader, but their hopes were broken when Noor negotiated a deal with Dr. Ghani. By removing Noor, Ghani made a huge progress and restore his figure as the only trusted and powerful leader in the country. With removal of Noor, Dr. Ghani almost completely scattered Jamiat-e-Islami which was needed for implementation of his reforms agenda. It is because Jamiat-e-Islami and other existence of parties of warlords are among the greatest barriers to implement reforms, reach peace and achieves prosperity in Afghanistan and Dr. Ghani knows this very well.
Dr. Ghani’s vision is to end the Afghan internal war and restore Afghanistan’s reputation. For this, Ghani needs support from all the groups, but he has been failed to trust northern Mujahedeen because of many reasons. With his right hand, a visionary and an incredible politician, Hanif Atmar (National Security Advisor) and other young and progressive patriot elites; he was able to negotiate a historic peace deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
For Ghani, this was the most difficult thing to manage being the president of the NUG, because almost all the Mujahedeen from the Karzai’s government weren’t willing to negotiate a peace deal with Hekmatyar, because they always feared his approval and influential personality among Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Bringing Hekmatyar would ‘weaken their political power’, was one of the main reasons that they were opposing to reach such deal with him throughout these years.
Through many decades of turmoil, Hekmatyar has managed himself alive and has played a vital role in the modern politics of Afghanistan. He has been a C.I.A.-favored fighter of the Soviets, a warlord who mauled Kabul with other Mujahedeen groups, a prime minister, an admirer of Al Qaeda, an ally and enemy of the Taliban, and an unabashed proponent of suicide bombings against American forces.
It was hard to believe that Ghani would be able to convince international community, the U.S. and NATO and more necessarily its own cabinet for such a peace deal. There were thousands of political criticisms over a possible deal with Hekmatyar. Many warlords were threatening Ghani of overthrowing his government if such a deal was brokered with Hekmatyar. Even some elites who were supporting Dr. Ghani, were pessimist about the deal. But Dr. Ghani was probably had saw a light at the end of the tunnel and was able to reach a peace deal with him. By brokering a deal with Hekmatyar, Dr. Ghani has recorded a golden page in his legacy as the president of Afghanistan. This could be expected from Dr. Ghani as he has studied Afghanistan for decades and has developed rational and Afghan solutions for Afghan problems. His theories though may look somehow bizarre and revolutionary to some, are perfectly making sense in Afghanistan.
A peace deal with Hekmatyar was the most risky move that Dr. Ghani ever made in his tenure as the president of Afghanistan. But it seems that Dr. Ghani is passionate about bringing peace even by risking his reputation and power. Ghani is an intrepid leader and reformer. He is changing the entire literature and approach of bringing peace to Afghanistan and has been able to achieve his goals successfully.
Now, Hekmatyar is not only a great example of how peace deal can be negotiated with enemies in countries like Afghanistan, but also a great supporter of Dr. Ashraf Ghani. With this deal Dr. Ashraf Ghani has also balanced the power in Kabul which has been for a long time deficit on the side of Pashtuns.
One of the biggest problems in Afghanistan is nation building. While Karzai tried to unite the nation by following a state-nation model, Ghani believes on hybrid of nation-state and state-nation model. Ghani understands that nation building is the foundation of state building for the post conflict countries like Afghanistan. He has learnt from the history that any state building efforts can be hindered and wipe out easily, if it isn’t supported by a nation building strategies. To build the nation, Ghani successfully launch Electronic National ID card by adding ‘Afghan’ as nationality for all the people living in Afghanistan. In the National e-Tazkira (ID card) ‘ethnicity’, ‘nationality’ with religions are added which make it one of the most comprehensive e-National ID card for Afghans. The content of e-Tazkira is supported by Article 4 of the Constitution Law of Afghanistan.
Notwithstanding of criticisms from some anti-Afghan and Afghanistan groups including Jamiat-e-Islami and Iranian influenced spies like Abdul Latif Pedram and others, Dr. Ghani was able to launch the first e-Tazkira in the history of Afghanistan. With this triumph, Dr. Ghani terminated the anti-Afghan debate once for all and strengthened the national identity of Afghanistan. By creating a balance between state building and nation building, Ghani has created a hybrid module applicable to Afghanistan.
This model of nation-state, semi-state nation model is perfectly required for post conflict countries like Afghanistan. If things go right, the positive outcome of the changes Dr. Ghani has brought in his short tenure will be felt a decade after now.
Ghani has brought deep fundamental reforms including fighting against corruption and bribery, economic and political mafia. He has isolated most of the warlords and criminals in a short period of time and was able to normalize the situation in Afghanistan. He appointed young, progressive patriot, committed and professional Afghans in the government. This is the first time in the history of Afghanistan that youth were trusted and given great responsibilities. Dr. Ghani is laying down the strong foundation for a bright, democratic, progressive, young, united, strong and inclusive Afghanistan.
Many still believe that Ghani is favoring Pashtuns by appointing Pashtuns in his administration, but the fact remains that only approx. 40% Pashtuns are working in the governmental agencies while there percentage of population is far higher than this. In the Karzai’s government, this percentage was around 30%. Ghani is following meritocratic appointments irrespective of ethnic considerations. If you look at his close circle, you will find that he has built a beautiful team of Afghans from all the ethnicities. His closet supporters are from Hazara, Uzbek, Pashtun, Tajik and others.
Many of his opponents have been criticizing him by saying that Ghani is pursuing identity politics. While identity politics is not an ideal and best politics, for sure, however there is no political leader in the world who has not played the identity politics card. There is no politics without identity politics and there is a little to believe that we can think of politics without the identity politics.
When it comes to international relations, even his enemies and rivals are having consensus that he is the most influential leader in the modern history of Afghanistan. His international strategies and policies were most successful and could restore the economic and political status of Afghanistan. He was able to isolate Pakistan both politically and economically. He built strong relationships with India, China, Turkey, Middle East and Central Asia. He started to manage Afghanistan’s water resources for the first time after the late Mohammad Musa Shafiq (a Columbia university graduate and Prime Minister of Afghanistan during King Zahir Shah Reign) and negotiated a deal with Iran. He decreased economic interdependency on Pakistan and opened economic corridors including the Chahbahar Port.
He launched big economic and regional transit projects to make Afghanistan self-reliant and reinstate its geo-economic and geo-political status in the region. He was successful to kick off large regional projects that were pending for years. Dr. Ghani is transforming Afghanistan in all the sectors. He is a 360 degree transformer and reformer with strong political leadership skills, which was long needed for Afghanistan.
Ghani thinks a decade ahead, he has a strong understanding of the failed states such as Afghanistan. He is an anthropologist and his realm has taught him in-depth knowledge about understanding people. He knows Afghans more than any other politician in Afghanistan. He is changing everything in a very short period of time. He opens the doors of peace talks while simultaneously isolating Pakistan internationally and compelling it to support the peace process in Afghanistan. Though Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, the former Ambassador of the U.S. to Afghanistan and a PhD from the University of Chicago believes that Pakistan will facilitate only ‘talks’ not ‘peace’ for Afghanistan. He believes that Pakistan is not a good ally to the U.S. and it is the main reasons for continuing destabilization, war and conflict in Afghanistan. Dr. Ghani also has similar thinking about Pakistan. This was during Dr. Ghani’s regime that Afghanistan was able to expose the reality of double face politics of Pakistan about Afghanistan and the region. He convinced the U.S. that Pakistan is not a trusted ally for them and it has the destabilizing role in Afghanistan and in the region. He has restored Afghanistan regional status and moved Afghanistan away from a passive actor to a dynamic actor at the international stage.
Recently, he offered an unconditional peace deal to Taliban. This is first time in the modern history of Afghanistan that a president is offering such an expensive and unconditional peace deal. By gathering Ulema (Islamic Scholars) in Afghanistan and in other countries, he left no room for legitimacy of war in Afghanistan by Taliban and other insurgent groups. He displayed to the world that Afghanistan is fighting international terrorism on behalf of them. He made this clear that the war in Afghanistan is a proxy war, it is the war with international terrorism and it is not an internal war.
He offered a week-long unconditional historic ceasefire of its own to Taliban. In response to this Taliban in Afghanistan announced a surprise three-day ceasefire. This is the first cease-fire that the Taliban have announced since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Many prominent political figures inside and outside Afghanistan have expressed their views on this important move and majority of them praised Dr. Ghani for taking such a historic step. Dr. Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to neighboring country Pakistan, described it as an “important step towards prospects for peace. The U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, said this could, for example, allow them to partially shift the focus of aerial surveillance from the Taliban to IS fighters as well as Al-Qaida extremists. General John Nicholson, the Head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has welcomed the cease-fire, saying it has “great significance” and reflects the Afghan government’s “strong desire for peace.”
Similarly the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mr. Tadamichi Yamamoto showed optimism and wrote. “Both sides want an Islamic government. Both agree that the state should be governed by a constitution. Both agree that Afghanistan should neither be a haven for global terrorists nor a threat to its neighbors.
Likewise, the European Union’s top diplomat declared the cease-fire and peace a much needed respite for the war-torn country. The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini in a statement said,” “The historic ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban during Eid al-Fitre has given the Afghan people a much-needed respite from 17 years of conflict,” she paid tribute to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s decision to extend the ceasefire and called on the Taliban to reciprocate.
The Taliban fighters entered large cities and celebrated Eid days with Afghan security forces. This was like a dream to Afghans and people of the world. How come Taliban appeared and celebrated Eid days with Afghan security forces? What is happening at once in the country? Are Afghans near to reach a long lasting peace? These and many other similar questions were created in the minds of Afghans and observers of Afghanistan situation.
Steve Coll the writer of Ghost Wars and Directorate of ‘S’ in his article for New York Times pointed out that these kind of ceasefires though are not a basis for achieving lasting peace, but are very important in reaching peace and reducing destabilizing violence. He also said that sometimes antagonists use ceasefires as violence -management tool. To support his argument he provides examples of Pakistan-India, and Israel–Lebanon ceasefires.
In Afghanistan reaching a long lasting peace is expansive, but possible only if the U.S. would really commit to bring peace to Afghanistan. The U.S. government promised many things for Afghanistan but most of them proved to be a flash in the pan. During the Obama’s Administration, the U.S. and Taliban had many highly confidential meetings about peace and possible entering of Taliban into constitutional Afghan politics and then eventually allowing the U.S forces to completely withdraw. While the reasons why these talks are failed are still unknown, but one can assume that Pakistan interests was one major reason that halted those talks.
There are many internal factors against peace in Afghanistan like the existing of warlords (Mujahedeen). They don’t want a possible peace with Taliban because of losing power and resources. Other groups argue that Taliban are Pashtuns and if they got entered into constitutional politics in Afghanistan, the political power will be further consolidated in the hands of Pashtuns. Another reason could be the presences of foreign spies, economic and political mafia and corrupts in Afghanistan. They oppose peace in Afghanistan because in such case they will not be able to receive their piece of cheese. There are many other internal barriers that also don’t allow Afghans to end the war and conflicts in the country.
In external factors, the biggest reason why Afghanistan is not able to negotiate a peace deal is the double face politics of Pakistan. Taliban have been supported by Pakistan for their interests in Afghanistan. Till safe sanctuaries for Taliban are not destroyed, Afghans will face threats from Pakistan through their different groups of extremists that they call them Mujahidin. If you look at the history, almost all the Taliban leaders were founded and killed in Pakistan.
The fact that Osama Bin Laden was found near an ISI base and Military Academy in Pakistan is a good example to believe Pakistan is not a good ally to the U.S. and Afghanistan. Pakistan is the main destabilizing element in the region. Countries like Iran and Russia both are now supporting Taliban for their own interests. There are allegations that Russia is supporting Taliban to fail the U.S. and use the same strategy the U.S. used during Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
It is said that the Russians are somehow also worried about ISIS and think that these are groups created by the U.S. for creating unrest in the central Asia. Hence, for this reason also Russia wants a guaranteed involvement in Afghanistan. Iran has a long history of espionage in Afghanistan and creating social unrests and divisions to keep Afghanistan weak and unstable. They are now targeting Hazaras and Tajiks for their interests.
There are growing number of people believing in conspiracy theories that says, the U.S. is playing a double face politics in Afghanistan and they are not committed to help Afghan government achieve peace and stability. They believe that if the U.S. would want to support Afghans to have democracy, strong government and peace, they would have acted completely different in the past 16 years. The fragile political policies of the U.S. in Afghanistan gave them a rational reason to think that way. They believe that the U.S. government has deliberately let the country not to achieve peace and remain dependent. They also believe that, to win the peace, Afghans must be in the Driver’s Seat. When you look at the past political unwise, irrational and incorrect decisions of the U.S. in Afghanistan one would agree to many points raised by the followers of conspiracy theories in Afghanistan. In short, these people believe that peace should be reach with the U.S. not Taliban. If the United States is convinced then peace will come to Afghanistan, else there is no way out.
Taliban after emerging of ISIS are no more a single military opposition to Afghan government. Some writers and political analysts also believe that Taliban will soon join the government and they will be replaced by the ISIS. They consider both Taliban and ISIS as the projects planned and lead by the U.S.
In between these all there is one old man, who is transforming everything in the country. With his unique style of thinking, progressive ideologies, beautiful mind and dynamic personality; he left no door to search for achieving long lasting peace in Afghanistan. He uses both top-down and bottom-up process to reach to peace. He has been risking his power and government to change the static peace environment to a dynamic one.
Recently when Helmand young peace marchers who have traveled on their feet from Helmand to Kabul for peace; reached to Kabul, president Ghani went to see them despite of their expensive conditions for meeting. This shows that Ghani has a strong commitment to peace. The only thing Afghans should do is to trust and support him.
Apparently the U.S. is also looking for finding a political solution to Afghanistan’s problem. As president Donald Trump said that “after an effective military effort,” it might be “possible” to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban, but it can be felt that the U.S. are impatiently looking for a political solution. Because when Dr. Ghani negotiated a peace deal with Hekmatyar, the U.S. accepted it quickly and similar thing happened when Dr. Ghani has offered an unconditional peace deal to Taliban in this year. These examples show that Dr. Ghani is able to convince the U.S. Either lobbyists of Dr. Ghani are the best that can easily alter the mind of the U.S. or the U.S. are desperate about finding an alternatives to end up war and conflicts in Afghanistan.
I strongly believe that ultimately Afghans should reach peace today or tomorrow, there is no other logical alternative. The best solutions to Afghan problems are Afghan solutions and that is only possible through an inclusive peace process where all Afghan sides are being considered. After more than a decade of focusing on military solutions, only few people believe that Afghanistan’s conflict can be solved by military interventions or solutions.
While there is a consensus that peace is the only solution for Afghan conflict still the country has lost golden opportunities during Hamid Karzai’s regime. Hamid Karzai although called their brothers, he has never wanted reach peace deal to include them in constitutional politics of Afghanistan. But Ghani is risking his power and government because of Afghanistan’s national interest. This is indeed the difference between a national leader and a power voracious leader.
Recently Kai Aide in his twitter has written, could, he Ashraf Ghani become the Gandhi of Afghanistan? What a legacy! Now is the chance-after 40 years of war and conflict.
Looking at what has Ashraf Ghani done in the short period for the restoring peace in Afghanistan and transforming Afghanistan, one can say that Ghani is far competitive in all aspects than Gandhi, but it is the matter of context and specific political settings. I am sure if Gandhi was leading Afghanistan today, he would find it difficult too. Gandhi was a great human being, freedom fighter and thinker in the world history but Ghani is an ingenious intellect, theorist and leader. Afghanistan is one of the most complex, and problematic country to lead for any leader and Ghani is a God gifted leader for a country like Afghanistan.
Ghani is the type of reformer and leader that the American government desperately needed as a partner during the unpredictable later years of Karzai’s regime. If the U.S wants to restore peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, Dr. Ghani is no doubt one of the best options for leading Afghanistan. If things go right, Dr. Ghani will be able to leave one of the most inspiring legacies in the modern history of Afghanistan. Ghani is a replete with a strong interminable desire to end Afghan war and conflict but the U.S. can be suspected.
Afghans are insatiably eager to achieving peace. Nobody can exactly prognosticate the future of Afghanistan; however most sides think that the best solutions to Afghan problems are by reaching an inclusive peace by effective negotiation. It is worth to note that for Afghan problems, we should apply Afghan solutions or models, tested and fully contextualized as per the ground realities in Afghanistan. Peace is a realistic possibility in Afghanistan and all Afghans are desperately waiting for peace in their country. While Ghani has laid down the foundation of talks, now it is up to the U.S. to explore possible ways to end war in Afghanistan. And this is the responsibility of Afghan current and future government to implore the U.S government to negotiate together a peace deal and to put a full stop to the long war and conflict in Afghanistan.
*Zarif Aminyar is a professor, writer and politician resides in California. He is an ICCR Scholar and Alumni of Harvard Kennedy School EXED. He can be reached via [email protected]