President Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at First Meeting of Leadership Committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation

President Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at First Meeting of Leadership Committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation

December 5, 2020

[Translated from Pashto and Dari]

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Opening Remarks

Honorable political figures and elders; I extend my heartfelt gratitude to you for your presence today.

I would like to begin by saying thanks.

Dr. Abdullah; I express gratitude to you for accepting to lead the High Council for National Reconciliation to speak for the national unity of Afghanistan.

I am grateful to Professor Sayyaf for chairing the first Consultative Peace Jirga, and setting the stage for Dr. Abdullah to take the lead in the second Jirga. You are a towering personality; may Allah protect you.

Honorable Karzai; I wholeheartedly thank you for your consistent efforts in the past and now.

My brothers, first and second vice-presidents; I express gratitude to you for your unity in thought and action and your sheer determination for peace, the paramount demand of the people of Afghanistan,  for which we stand in unity by each other.

I thank Mr. Rahmani, Speaker of the Lower House and Mr. Muslimyar, Speaker of the Upper House for taking a solid stance in supporting the reconciliation/peace process and the negotiating delegation.

Mr. Qanuni, Mr. Khalili, former vice-presidents, Mr. Mohaqqiq, Mr. Ata

Mohammad Noor, Mr. Ismaeil Khan;

Mr. Gailani, may Pir Gailani’s soul rest in peace;

Mr. Mujaddidi; we are missing Hazrat Sibghatullah Mujaddidi.

Mr. Shahraani, Mr. Mohammad Khan;

Mr. Islamaeil Ghazanfar, may Yusouf Ghazanfar’s soul rest in peace.

Honorable women in the meeting; Ms. Safia Seddiqi, Ms. Shah Gul Rezaei, Ms. Zarqa Yaftali, Ms. Farida Momand, Ms. Najiba Ayubi, Ms. Nasrin Oryakhil, Ms. Aliye Yilmaz.

Our honorable brothers: Mr. Sadiq Modaber, Mr. Juma Khan Hamdard.

Mr. Atmar, Minister of Foreign Affais,

Mr. Olumi, Mr. Fazly, Mr. Mawlawi Jora, Mr. Almas.

Leadership of the High Council for National Reconciliation; Mr. Farahmand, Mr. Sa’adati, Haji Din Mohammad, Ms. Zohra Motahhar Ahmadzai, Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, and particularly;

And Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, State Minister for Peace.

Your presence conveys a clear message to all our partners in the region and the world, to our negotiating delegation and particularly to the people of Afghanistan.

Negotiations have entered into its second phase. The first phase was not easy, but was conclusive.

I thank our negotiating delegation that strongly represented the constitutional values, the Republic and the mandate of the Consultative Peace Jirga.  I am grateful to you all for supporting and strengthening this united and national negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The Negotiating Team’s unity that symbolizes the unity of Afghanistan enabled them to pass the first phase successfully. We now have moved to the second phase where the essence of consultation becomes more crucial. We need to hold consultations and it is the beginning. We should continue to be steadfast and move forward with wisdom, as we did in the past.

The context needs to be analyzed and we must be cautious in a changing environment to prevent mistakes. Our goal is crystal clear; we have to come to a conclusion on a roadmap and on our next steps.

Closing Remarks

Honorable political figures and elders;

I want to briefly talk over seven issues at the concluding remarks.

First, we are in a historical moment while the world has changed, the region is changing and Afghanistan is undergoing a change as well. The post-corona era will not be the same as the pre-pandemic world.

One of the most significant transformations in the world is emergence of Asia as a continental economy, where the continent will become the center of gravity of the world economy. The definition of security, economy and international cooperation is changing.

I have good news. We are now confident that at the first phase we can provide corona vaccine for 20 percent of the people of Afghanistan, and on the second phase, for other 40 percent of the population. This will be an effective step to partly address our people’s concern and prepare the grounds for peace, business and employment, because if we close our eyes to the current context today, we will be remorseful tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the second wave of corona is hitting us. I have held eight sessions so far to deal with the pandemic. I seek your support for our efforts in fighting covid-19 so that we deliver this message to the people of Afghanistan to protect themselves of the virus.

Second, critical conditions bring opportunities and threats. Seizing the opportunities depends upon how united we are. It is, therefore, our national unity that can determine whether we can expand the opportunities and contain the threats.

The current phase of the peace process has its own threats. The government is an overarching umbrella and does not belong to a certain individual. Any disunity, fragmentation, and division among us will have consequences.

Peace should be achieved within a well-designed process in order to ensure the sustainability of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, not to jeopardize the hard-earned gains or cause fragmentation and division. Therefore, it is essential to realize the importance of the lessons of the past and focus on the overarching umbrella rather than individuals.

We need to distinguish between achieving peace and implementation of a peace agreement. Implementation is another step. How do you implement peace [agreement] in a country where 90 percent of its people live with a daily income of less than $2? What resources will you provide for it and how?

At least two to four million Afghan refugees will return from our neighboring countries. Be it a child or a woman and regardless what side, government or Taliban, they support, they are all Afghans. We have a crucial responsibility to strengthen our institutions to be able to carry the burden of implementing peace. This will not materialize in dysfunctional institutions. So it is essential that we extend hand to each other and collaborate to establish reforms in order to deliver on the commitments that we have made in Afghanistan Conference 2020.

In the current conditions, self-reliance is the key issue. The context has changed and we can no longer rely on the foreign aids. We have to roll up our sleeves and mobilize our resources to stand on our own feet. Thanks God, our country has immense resources, so it is essential to mobilize them for achieving self-reliance.

Brothers and sisters;

The war in Afghanistan inflicts a loss of more than 40 million dollars a year. It is crucial that we understand all the dimensions. On the one side, we pursue the goal to achieve peace; there shouldn’t be any doubt in that; and on the other side, we must not let new flags be hoisted

[outbreak of another war under a different name and flag]

, so we must be cautious. Thus, the roadmap that you, our elders, will be working on requires wisdom, support and determination. We will be facing tough questions which should be addressed in a way to help us reach our destination.

I want to thank our Defense and Security forces. We all owe these heroes who are the honest sons of this soil. They have paid immense sacrifices to safeguard the honor and dignity of this homeland and are supporting the government more than any time in history. I also want to thank those civil offices that are striving day and night. The culture of recognition should be promoted.

Our biggest thanks go to our people. I am grateful to all our people from all walks of life including women, youth and political stratum of the country. The patience our people exercised for peace was unprecedented. Such kind of patience would be impossible in any other country with such level of violence escalated after commencement of the peace negotiations. It means our people’s will, determination and commitment for peace is unparalleled. We are very lucky to have such a nation whose goal for peace is irreversible. Our people want peace, and our and your responsibility is to bring peace. We all must appreciate our people for their utmost patience and commitment.

Third, we need to extend gratitude to the members of Afghanistan Consultative Peace Jirga. Loya Jirga demonstrated the country’s dignity and moral stance. We couldn’t release those contested prisoners without the moral stance that our people took. The key point is the collective wisdom that emanated from the Loya Jirga reflected our people’s sound judgment. The Jirga gave the mandate, defined a framework and set the limits for our peace negotiating delegation. Thanks to this traditional assembly, it has worked the best during the difficult circumstances. We should preserve and further consolidate this tradition which represents all our tribes and provinces. The Jirga will also play a remarkable role in implementation of the peace

[agreement]

.

Fourth, I am grateful to our peace negotiating team for their unity, patience, focus, tolerance and wisdom. They truly represented the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. All section of Afghan society including men, women, Islamic scholars, experts, tribes and ethnicities are represented in the team. Those who doubted that the team cannot represent our values and principles should reconsider their thoughts.

What are the elements of unity within the negotiating team? It is the overarching umbrella of [the republic] government, and more importantly their commitment to their people, national interests and to a common future for all Afghans.

As we did in the past, we declare our support for our negotiating team and wish them success in the second phase of the peace process.

The I.R. Negotiating Team believes in consultation as an essential factor, so whenever they face tough questions, they come for consultation. They also posed good questions and once they receive their [the Taliban’s] responses, they will come to us for consultation.

I thank the High Peace Council that was led during the past decade by prominent figures namely Hazrat Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, Professor Rabbani, Pir Gailani, Mr. Khalili and now Dr. Abdullah who is leading efforts at High Council for National Reconciliation. It is our obligation to recognize those who have paid sacrifices for peace during the past ten years. It is our obligation to commend and appreciate all those who have paid sacrifices for peace and freedom.

I also express gratitude to the members of Afghanistan private sector. If it were not their efforts, Afghanistan would have plunged into a severe crisis. There was not a single protest for [lack of] food items. And today, the private sector plays a significant role in providing essential items and foodstuff for the people.

I also appreciate Afghanistan National Assembly, both Houses of the Parliament, for their consistent, national and strong stance for peace. And today I extend gratitude to all you Jihadi and political leaders as well as all strata of the Afghan society particularly women.

The third issue is the End-State that we are pursuing to achieve. Afghanistan and the international community have a shared vision on that End-State; a sovereign, independent, democratic Afghanistan at peace within, the region and the world and capable of preserving and expending the gains of the past 19 years. This is not easy. I would like to wholeheartedly thank Minister Atmar, Dr. Abdullah, Vice-President Saleh and all our colleagues for their relentless efforts for making this shared vision and consensus possible.

Why are we stressing on the end state? Because when there is consensus in defining a common goal, it will be easier to delineate a roadmap. As we are trying to achieve an ideal goal, we need to create our roadmap and set our criteria. When you face a crossroad on a path you haven’t experienced, there will be opportunities and threats, but we need to act based on the lessons learned from different courses during the past forty years. So we need to grab the opportunities and deal with the threats. The road to peace will be perilous and bumpy, but what is important is to have a common understanding, vision and ability to manage the process.

The bench mark that the people of Afghanistan have set is ending the four-decade violence. Progress on the paper is not a bench mark; progress can be measured when it changes the living condition of our people for the better. We cannot reach to any conclusion in absence of a paper/agreement, but paper should center on a clear objective that is ‘end of the violence’.

Thus, we need to clearly define the other [terrorist] groups that continue their acts of violence so that we don’t face a circumstance to promise peace to people, but in turn seeing a surge in violence. It is crucial to think through the destabilizing drivers and other dimensions in the region. 

People are frustrated and fed up with the four-decade violence, and there is clear consensus that our goal is to end this violence. I give you one illustration; Afghanistan has lost 16 percent of its revenue in 2019 because of continued violence and terrorism.

Think over what I said. On the one side we are building our national assets; on the other side, they are being destroyed. We have to have a deep understanding of the context so that we don’t face with manifestation of violence in other forms.

How to analyze the current context to attain the End-State? How to create a clear roadmap in a changing context/environment? As I said before, building a roadmap in the context of regional and global stability differs from one in a changing one. We are currently going through changing environment therefore we need to analyze it and be able to manage the possible risks.

Fourth is a political will. The political will emanates from the will of the people. The people of Afghanistan want peace; they want a national and inclusive peace, not a tribal or factional peace. If anyone doubts the will of the people for peace, the Consultative Peace Jirga is a proof.

Therefore, it is imperative that the entire nation, all generations, women and youth of Afghanistan stand together because unity strengthens political will. If we waste our time on divisive issues it will weaken our political will.

The other point is to prove our will. The Government of Afghanistan has shown its political will for peace. We paid any sacrifice for peace. Is there any time we haven’t announced peace as our national priority?

Is there any place in the world where two hundred prisoners are released before negotiations begin? We have taken and will take difficult decisions. It is imperative to call on the Taliban to show their political will, to ask the region to show political will. It is not only the government and people’s responsibility to prove their will, but the Taliban and the region’s as well. You cannot clap with one hand [it takes two to tango]. The point must be understood.

Peace requires sacrifice too, but a peace that leads to stability. Stability is the missing piece of the Afghan nation; the stability that enables us and every child and young to plan for the future. We missed stability long ago and we haven’t had it for 40 years. Therefore, it is essential to bring stability. Rules of the game must be clear. When these rules are clear, they can be amended. And amendments can only take place with the will of people. Therefore, to strengthen the political will, it requires us to analyze the opportunities and make firm decisions. If we fail to consider opportunities, our decisions will not be fruitful. So it is important to analyze the opportunities and move forward.

Fifth is international and regional cooperation. Respected Professor Sayyaf; you are absolutely right that we cannot rely on foreign aids forever. Taking that into account, Afghanistan neither has a permanent enemy, nor a lasting friend. Afghanistan has permanent interests. It is our relationship/unity that can ensure our national interests. We have to get out of this situation. We cannot afford others’ conflicts and they must not be imposed on us.

We want an Afghanistan where all can live together in peace; an Afghanistan that can share common interest with other countries; an Afghanistan that is not a place for confrontation.

One of the key conditions for implementation of peace is regional consensus. Regional consensus must be built around a free, stable and thriving Afghanistan. We want regional guarantees. International experience has shown that regional consensus brings rapidity, while absence of consensus brings failure. And particularly on regional consensus, we will clearly talk to Pakistan and Iran in order to find common grounds for the future.

From the perspective of international relations, we must have a clear equation. Our clear equation is that all our security cooperation for eliminating the threat of terrorism depends on consolidation of our

[government]

system, independence and self-reliance. It cannot be done unilaterally. The world has changed; we have changed too. There should be a proper definition of use of international force in Afghanistan as well as its limits and mechanism. The brave Afghan National Defense and Security forces are now a capable force and leading and conducting 96 percent of the operations themselves. All [partners] must come to a common vision that terrorism is a shared threat. We must reach a consensus on different aspects of this menace and clarify what part every stakeholder will play to contain the threat.

In this part, I would like to express my gratitude to the Islamic scholars of the world. During the last three months, the Islamic scholars have raised their voice [against ongoing violence]. I would like to call on distinguished Mr. Khalili, Mr. Mohaqqiq, Mr. Noor, Mr. Muslimyar, Mr. Danish and all other religious scholars to extend a hand of cooperation to enable us to sustain this consensus. It is essential because the ongoing war has no religious legitimacy. This is a great step and the Islamic World should support it with consideration to the common understanding and unity among the Islamic religious denominations and ethnic groups in Afghanistan. So we need to maintain our good relationship to be able to move forward.

Sixth, I want highlight a few points on consensus.

First, building a consensus is our national responsibility and leading the opportunities is linked to it. To put in place a mechanism to build a consensus is key. We welcome any suggestion by Dr. Abdullah. The need for a lasting consensus is clear and particularly at the times of making difficult decisions. Every country would have faced an immense crisis, if they were to decide on the release of five thousand and five hundred prisoners. It was, indeed, the national and political consensus that allowed us to make a difficult decision.

Second is the opportunity. There must be a clear consensus on the opportunities and threats. When is the opportunity? What type of opportunities? What kind of decisions we need to make? How to analyze the changing contexts and taking advantage of them?

Third, we must define the common threats. We must also have a consensus on the threats because they determine what actions should we take.

Fourth, we have to build consensus around roadmap [for peace].

And fifth is the necessity for continuous consultations with all section of the society to engage them in the process.

There are some messages to the Taliban. The first message is that Afghanistan’s politicians, society and government accept you as a reality; we do not deny it because the time that you were not accepted as a reality of the Afghan society has gone. We want to make peace with you. But you have to reciprocate and accept the realities of the Afghan society. Negotiation with the U.S. and negotiations with the Afghans are two different issues and they must be distinguished.

The second message is that neither you surrender nor we have surrendered, this war has no winner. The continuation of war is easy, but anybody who is determined for peace is the real winner. If it is asked who is the winner of peace? My answer is very simple; the people of Afghanistan. They must think about the six living generations of Afghanistan. Is there a single one of us who haven’t been affected by war?  Is there anybody among these six generations who hasn’t passed through suffering and pain? Taliban must understand that they are not the only ones who have suffered, but all people of Afghanistan. So let us heal the wounds of these generations and relieve their pain.

On the other hand, the future of the next six generations is tied to this. We must now fully understand our responsibility. It is not only the government’s responsibility, but all of us including the Afghan people and politicians to share this burden.

Third is a ceasefire. The Afghan people have consensus on peace. But if you – the Taliban – continue to kill, threaten and disrespect people, they will, God forbids, dismiss their consensus on peace. Taliban! Understand that you will not make a loss by agreeing to ceasefire. The people and government of Afghanistan and all our colleagues are determined to entering into serious negotiations with you on a ceasefire. Don’t be apprehensive of a ceasefire. People’s support for you will be your asset. The more you are merciful to people, the more you gain their support. But if your response is car bombs, threats, suicide bombing and blasts, it will erode the people’s trust and put negative impacts on their determination. This is a very serious issue; think over it.

Fifth, peace requires political will and courage from the Taliban. Just as we are talking about our political will, the Taliban must also demonstrate their will. How do they make decision and based on which criteria? What messages do you have for the Afghan nation? How do you build the future together? Especially, are we ready to put an end to the bloodshed? In the Jirga, we have a very good tradition in our Jirgas that we put an end to the intense issues which could possibly create conflict. If we go back 5, 10, or 20 years back, no one is painless. How do we build the future? My request from Taliban is to talk on the future in the agenda. If we are united as one nation and accept each other as Afghans and realities of our society, let us build a united Afghanistan. This requires courage and sacrifice from all of us.

What I hear from the participants of this meeting, I hear from all the people of Afghanistan. That is, we are all ready to make peace; to make peace quickly; to make a principle peace to make a sustainable peace.

My last message to Taliban; the ball is now in your court. Are you ready to make a decision? Do you have the political will? We hope you demonstrate your political will to enable us move from typical/general issues to fundamental issues in the second phase of the negotiations.  The progress has been made, and I would like to congratulate this progress to everyone. Now it is necessary to seize the created opportunity.

Please stop bloodshed! Hearts cannot be cleansed through bloodshed. If you stop bloodshed, it shows your determination and willingness for peace; they point that everybody understands it. Resumption of war is not difficult, but beginning to make peace requires honor and determination. I am waiting for that and I want to assure all the people of Afghanistan that we and you will fulfill their demand, if God is willing.

Long live Afghanistan

Long live our political figures and elders. Wish you all the best of luck.