Committed to democracy but mindful of the realities that impede its progress, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, cautioned against quick fixes for his nation, telling participants at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that the complicated nature of the protracted war in Afghanistan requires patience, engagement and a US exit strategy premised on mutual interest.
Responding to reports earlier this week that the United States had reached a deal with the Taliban in talks in Doha, Qatar, the Afghan leader said the complex nexus of relationships in which the militant group is engaged means there will be no shortcuts to peace. The Taliban, said Ghani, is a group that has cultured relationships with “all known terrorist groups and the heroin mafia” – meaning that any agreement will also carry with it a web of other relationships to negotiate.
“Peace is an imperative, a war that has gone on for 17 years must come to an end, but this war is multidimensional,” said Ghani. “There are very strong levels of interrelationships and it is not as simple as to arrive at a date and think that the war simply ends because of that.”
Of the recent talks in Doha, Ghani said: “There is discussion, but this discussion needs to be shared back. A discussion that does not involve the region will not last … If we don’t get all the pieces right, one piece will not suffice.”
Ghani said that while the Taliban and ISIS remain a threat to South Asia and the West, ultimately the goal is for Afghanistan to stand on its own. “Our goal is to become a partner not a dependent,” he remarked, “Because of this we need to be able to pay for ourselves, for our security.”
Ghani paid tribute to the US soldiers that have lost their lives in the Afghan conflict and addressed talk of a US withdrawal, saying the two countries must reach an agreement based on mutual interest. “The US is not there because it is fighting in Afghanistan; it is fighting for its security. We have engaged in a very open dialogue, the US as a sovereign power is entitled to leave, but we need to get the departure right,” said Ghani.
Seeking re-election in July, Ghani argued that Afghanistan is slowly turning a corner, pointing to an increasing number of women involved in the democratic process, and huge demographic change yielding positive results. “We lost three generations to war and this is the first time that Afghans have gone from refugee camps to the best universities on Earth,” he proclaimed, before expounding on recent legislative gains. “The rules of the game are now placed in the constitution, 390 new laws have been passed in the last four-and-a-half years and I am confident we can turn the corner.”
Affirming that democracy is the best solution for the Afghan people, Ghani also said: “Democracy is not an overnight dose, more an injection. Democracy-building requires patience.” He added: “I think we are at the cusp with the elections and I hope that the transition will consolidate this, and we will be able to show that the investment made was worth it.”