: First, I was reading an article in New Yorker about your personality and I remembered one of your speeches which you delivered in 2005, I think, that was about ‘how to fix the failed states?’ and you are considered to be an authority worldwide for this subject. How do you experience your theory in Afghanistan, and sometimes it looks that you were unable to bring your theory ‘fixing the failed states’ to Afghanistan in practice. Am I right?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
: Mr. President! Some days back in Warsaw once again the world community and the NATO pledged the support of Afghanistan and Afghanistan people and the Afghan government. What is your assessment, till what time Afghanistan will need the foreign assistance and the foreign troops? And, till what time we can expect that Afghanistan will be able to defend its border with its own forces?
: But, Mr. President, outside Afghanistan, generally, the people believe that it is not the Afghan forces, but it’s the NATO and the Americans who are defending Afghanistan. So who is leading the defense activity in Pakistan, your own forces or the Americans?
: And who is on the driving seat? Do the NATO forces have to obey your orders or your troops have to obey their orders?
: What is the biggest challenge to the security and to the lives of Afghan people? Is it Al-Qaeda, is it Taliban or is it the surrounding countries, the proxies?
: So, Your excellency. Do you think that state-state relations problems with Pakistan, this is more biggest problem than Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other terrorists?
: Mr. President, we are hearing the slogan from both sides that ‘the enemy of Pakistan is the enemy of Afghanistan, and the enemy of Afghanistan is the enemy of Pakistan’; similarly in Pakistan, our rulers, they are repeating the sentence again and again that we have the same path, we have the same interest and we have the same concerns. Then the question is ‘why we are not reaching a joint strategy to fight this menace of terrorism and poverty and other evils?
: But do you not think Mr. President that now Afghanistan is repeating the same mistake which was committed by the Pakistani establishment in the past? For example, look at the Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan and …… ?
: Mr. President. The Pakistani government and particularly the Pakistani establishment; they are mostly and very concerned about the presence and activities of the Indian RAW in Pakistani border and they claimed that they have so many evidences of use of the Pakistani side by the RAW against Pakistan. So did you address that concern of Pakistan?
: Mr. President, if you are so clear in your mind to act against TTP leadership and if you are ready to address the concern of the Pakistani government regarding the Indian or the RAW presence in the region, then why the NDS or the Afghan government refuses the intelligence cooperation, and when you were going to (inaudible) deal between the cooperation of ISI and your NDS. So why that efforts didn’t materialize?
: But Excellency, instead of blaming each other in media or in international forums, is that will be not better that your army should talk to the Pakistani army, your intelligence should confront the Pakistani intelligence, and political leadership should sit with the Pakistani political leadership?
You are repeating my words of 2014, but trust needs to be established. We need to be assured that Pakistan is not going to give sanctuary to groups whose aim is overthrow of a legitimate government. You cannot have it both ways. We tried that. I overcame years of distrust, years of discord; I came with an open mind and an open heart. And, I repeated it that this was a once in a life-time opportunity. I am still insisting. Governments don’t have friends and enemies. We are servants of the people; we have national interests. I am the servant, the first servant of the Afghan people when the interest of my country demanded, I reached out; when the interests of my country demanded, I formed partnerships; there is nothing legitimate that I will not do to defend my national interest, and this needs to be understood. And, anybody who looks down upon my people, upon my government, upon my constitution closes an environment and trust will not grow. So we have an opportunity. The opportunity is to make history, to overcome the past, to move forward with a sense of vision, with a sense of commitment and a sense of mutual interest. Mutual interest is the basis on the basis of which we can proceed.
: How we can move forward? How we can achieve once again that environment of trust and cooperation?
Now it will have to be gradual and systematic. First, systematically declaring that Pakistan has no interest in strategic depth; it does not look down upon us as a backyard. We are nobody’s backyard. Anybody who stepped here has been swallowed. This is a land of lions. Don’t look upon us as the land of hens.
: But your present leadership and the political and also the military, they have denounced the concept of strategic depth.
But this needs to have implications; that means, ‘don’t give sanctuary. It means, ‘do not allow for political recruitment of groups that are openly declaring war. Our police cadets on the way of returning are killed; groups in Pakistan take responsibility for them. Our unarmed security apparatus, two miles from here, are studying; they are butchered. In Kabul, bombs are thrown; responsibility is taken for them by named groups, and those groups have headquarters; they have open activity; they have meetings. None of the high-ranking Pakistani officials has denied meeting with senior levels of Taliban. How can Mansour travel on a Pakistani passport multiple times from Karachi airport? And here, there will be accusations. So, environment……
: But they claimed that there are so many Afghans who have got the Pakistani passport.
Oh come on, please, please. Do not insult ISI. ISI is far more efficient than not to know who Mansour is.
But, Mr. President. In the past even some presidential candidates of Afghanistan, they were holding the Pakistani
No, but those were people that were honored by specific things. But, it is not in order to commit terror. The leaders of Jihad were engaged in a legitimate Islamic duty, in a national patriotic duty, and it was part of our friendship. What I am bringing to your attention and to your honorable viewers and officials; we have an opportunity, we have prepared roadmaps that have been on papers that have been shared. There is an opportunity to act. And, I hope that illusions that the government of Afghanistan will collapse, that the Afghan army will collapse, that the international forces will abandon us, that we will run out of resources or will or determination. Let’s begin with a clean slate, with a full understanding that Afghanistan is here, and that is based on mutual interest; we can face the greatest threat that faces all of us which is regional and internationally-based terrorist networks that threaten both our countries. That is the threat, and the key to the solution is our cooperation; in that cooperation, we are willing to engage systematically and wholeheartedly, but based on the principle of, “trust but verify’.
: What should be the step 1, step 2, step 3 from the Pakistani side?
Step one, go after the declared terrorist groups. Clear. If you don’t take action on them, we don’t believe you.
Step two, act on the quadrilateral process regarding reconcilables and irreconcilables so that peace can begin. Three; those who reject peace should be evicted from Pakistan.
: And what the Afghan side will reciprocate?
Afghan side will cooperate with counter-terrorism; the threat of terrorism is on the two sides of the line. It has now become a ground for attacks on both of us. Threat of terrorism in Pakistan cannot be contained without full regional and global cooperation. We will engage in full cooperation across the board: people-to-people relationship, economy-to-economy relationship, security-to-security relationship, political-to-political and cultural-to-cultural.
: And in that condition, your government is ready to address the Pakistani concerns regarding Indian presence or TTP or Baluch separatists?
India is a historical friend of Afghanistan. India is building dams in Afghanistan and helping building our parliament. India is a democratic country sharing our democratic aspirations. Our foreign policy is no-one’s business, but ours, as long as it’s constructive. If destructive allegations are made, we will verify. We are proud of our friendship with India; we are proud of our friendship with China and with the United States; that is the essence of sovereignty. Essence of sovereignty is that you are free to strike partnerships with others. The essence of regional stability is that your friendships with others do not pose threats to your neighbors.
: Your Excellency, besides the elected president of the Afghan people, you are also an intellectual and a researcher. I want to understand how you will categorize the relationship of Pakistan and Afghanistan at this stage. Can we say them ‘brother’? Can we say them ‘friend’? And can we say it is ‘love and hate relation’? Or God forbid we can say ‘enmity’ or ‘enemy’?
When you call each other ‘brother’, it means you are claiming an emotional relationship. Emotional relationships come when there is a stable state-to-state relationship. The face of brotherhood is later…that’s between people; that’s not between governments. I do not conduct the affairs of the state based on a model of a family. You can ask all my colleagues, my relationships with them are instrumental at the service of patriotism. We all believe in this basis because family…Dost Mohammad, the man who put back together to Afghanistan faced his brothers; and the elder brother said, ‘based on Afghan honor now surrender to me the province of Qalat.’ He said, ‘In the affairs of the state, there is no family relationship.’ That was one of my predecessors, known as the Great Amir. So, our relationships are clear. Clarity in our relationships has been established; now we need to act to bring about understanding and trust. There has been an undeclared war against us, and this I articulated both to Pakistani government, to the Pakistani security forces, to the media, to parliament; no one questioned that. The undeclared war must end, and because of it, the two sides must engage in a systematic constructive dialogue to bring it to an end.
What is the danger? The danger is that we could move from excellent people-to-people relationship to enmity between people. That is what I am trying to avoid and that’s why there is no emotion in my language. We are grateful for the support that Pakistanis provided to our refugees. We intend to bring them back honorably. But again, it is to the interest of the refugees; it is in the interest of people, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, who have taken most, to be hospitable; and here that is where there has been emotion. Afghan refugees particularly during the height of Jihad did not feel that they were living in an alien land; they were living in a land that they understood and respected. People-people relationships are emotional and there is a lot of that, and we intend to bring back our refugees. But, state-state relationship must be rationally conducted. It is based on the principle of interest and it is based on the principle of reciprocity. When positive actions are shown to us, we move. When negative actions take place, it slows down, but the basic point remains; Afghanistan and Pakistan like any two neighbors with very long histories are joints at the hip. We must work together to solve our common problems, not face each other as opponents, because the winner will be terrorism.
: One of the common problems is the refugee problem, and the Pakistan official, they are giving the excuse that ‘we cannot recognize Taliban’ or ‘we cannot go against them’ because they are using the refugee camps and they are active in the shape of the common refugees; so why the Afghan government is not bringing back its own citizens because we even witnessed in President Karzai’s period, no refugees came back to their country and even now in your government. So, do you have any plan for the repatriation of the Afghan refugees?
first is an admission that they have actually been sponsoring Taliban. So your effect said that the Pakistani officials say they are sponsoring Taliban because they are afraid of refugee reaction. This is an enormous admission. Thank you.
: But at the same time, they are saying if they will go against them then the Afghan government……
No, no. I am saying is that, but now the problem has been put. They have never put this to me with this clarity. If it were put with this clarity, we would solve the problem jointly. But, let them, at least, not say this to you, but not tell me, because this is important.
Second; five million refugees returned in the last 14 years, Safi Sahib. At least, 2 million of them returned from Pakistan, so it is not that we have not. This is a country which was emptied. Three, we are very keen to have a holistic approach; part of the Brussels Conference is not going to be just migration outward, but to solve …… I have repeatedly said, and I am repeating that again. Afghanistan is an incomplete body till the estimated 4 million refugees in Pakistan and Iran return back to our land. But, that means I have to have the opportunity to focus on the economy, to move the economy. If we want to refugees to be absorbed, we have to ensure 6 -9% rate of growth. I am absolutely keen to do this, but regional cooperation will cut this process (short), because all studies have shown once you go from conflict to peace, the neighbors alone benefit from 1 to 2 percent, save the country. So, it is in our mutual interest if the question of refugees and their reactions is of concern, and this would be legitimate, we can arrange as part of our discussions a systematic attempt to repatriate our refugees.
: Mr. President. Although they are challenging Afghan government, they are killing the Afghan people but at the same time the Taliban there are Afghans. So why your government is not going to talk directly to the Taliban because now their representatives are in Qatar; you can contact them, you can talk them. So why Afghan itself are giving opportunity to third forces to come and to intervene?
Several things. When we talked during President Karzai’s time, weren’t the same people arrested? Why was Mullah Brother arrested? Because he was talking to the Afghans. We needed to make sure…Safi Sahib, this is multidimensional conflict. First thing, because of that priority was to differentiate state-state relationship with Pakistan, people-to-people relationship with Pakistan as distinct. We need first peace between the two countries. As long as a proxy war is being launched from Pakistan, and as you just said for whatever set of reasons, they tolerate it or accept it or encourage it, then we have a state-to-state problem. Show me a place where sanctuary has been provided and peace has been established through direct talks. Two, we are talking. We are talking to Hikmatyar group; we have offered talks now. Again in my speech to Afghan parliament after the attack on Kabul, I said, we do not demand peace from Pakistan. We demand commitments of a state-to-state; we are engaging and we will engage, but it was important to address that dimension that connects directly to Pakistan. And, as you have just stated, again I am stating, they have made a significant statement but this is not justification. Terrorism cannot be differentiated, and what you have indicated citing unnamed officials is that there is good terrorism and bad terrorism, and that is unacceptable to us.
: But the Pakistani side said that when we bring Taliban to Mari, then why the news of Mullah Omar death was released to the media from the Afghan government and the Afghan NDS.
The news of Mulla Omar’s death came from the Taliban.
: That was not leaked by the Afghan government officially?
No, we didn’t leak. We gave an official statement. ‘Leak’ is when you say something and you don’t acknowledge it. My foot had been broken. I was going for an operation; I had got nineteen stitches, and it needed to come. And, the news was leaking, we verified 19 different sources, all within Taliban groups. How is it that, again, that an incredibly competent regional intelligence organization did not know for two years? And, in all the discussions that were conducted with intentions of sincerity, a simple fact like this was not shared with us.
: Mr. President. What your government can offer to Taliban? Is there any meeting point because they are not accepting your constitution?
What we are offering Taliban is common citizenship, common destiny, common vision, and inclusion. We accept the constitution does not differentiate between Afghans, and Afghans who accept…This is the charter of our existence. And, we must live together. We are offering that and the details of what divide us are subject of peace talks. We did not put preconditions. I have looked at more than 100 peace agreements. I wrote a long article of in days when I had time to write articles, and based on that I drew lessons. One of the key lessons was that we should show our sincerity. We have shown our sincerity and our commitment. What can be brought in the negotiation process cannot be gained in the battle field.
: And what happened with the deal with the Hezb-e Islami, Hekmatyar?
It is proceeding. We are still in discussions. It is a constructive dialogue. We are hopeful.
: You are hopeful?
: And, when we should expect you in Pakistan once again in that friendly environment?
When Pakistani leaders come with clarity regarding the relationships and the key questions that we have. Last time I was there, reciprocity now is the leadership of Pakistan comes here. I called Prime Minister Sharif, wished him well, and informed him that we had eliminated the heinous criminal
: Our Prime Minister has just passed a heart surgery, now he has a new heart, so why you are not inviting him for these talks to Kabul?
We are inviting. I called the Prime Minister before he went to the operation and I have just called him again.
: And You are inviting him to visit Kabul?!
Of course. We are delighted to have the Prime Minister.
: Mr. President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani. Thank you very much once again.