In an exclusive interview with TRT World, President Ashraf Ghani said Afghanistan can only secure long-lasting peace with a democratic system.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has rejected the idea of forming an interim government run by several stakeholders, including the Taliban.
In an interview with TRT World, Ghani brushed aside media reports on the US-Taliban discussions about forming an interim government, arguing: "By what authority will an interim government be created?"
Ghani strongly rejected the Taliban's aim to establish an Islamic Emirate, stressing that Afghanistan can achieve “long lasting peace only through a democratic system”.
"If we do not have a system where the citizens elect their leaders, there will not be stability," he said. "[An] Emirate was never accepted by the people of Afghanistan. It was imposed by force. Our Loya Jirga, the Consultative Grand Assembly of April 29 to June 2 has categorically endorsed the notion of republic. Peace must take place within the concept of the republic, not the concept of the emirate."
Commenting on claims of progress being made in US-Taliban talks that were held in the Qatari capital, Doha, Ghani said: "Nothing is agreed until everything agreed."
He also called on the international community to take a unified stand against the Taliban’s ties with “terror networks”.
"The question of Taliban commitment vis-a-vis their relations with terrorist networks is not just to the Americans. This is a global issue, it is a regional issue and particularly it is a national issue. So that is not an area where concessions are going to be granted very easily, we need to have guarantees and a system of verification," said Ghani.
The US aims to lay the groundwork for American troop withdrawal in exchange for Taliban guarantees such as implementing a countrywide ceasefire, ensuring Afghanistan will not be used as a safe haven for terror groups and committing to an "intra-Afghan" dialogue with the elected Afghan government.
The optimism around the dialogue faded as the Afghan government and the Taliban sought to dominate the talks by engaging in a spate of attacks on June 29, in which both sides took heavy casualties.
When asked about disputes over who controls most of the territory and whether that aspect should feature in peacemaking, Ghani said that of 400 Afghan districts, the armed group only controlled 22, citing the country's growing urban population as an indicator of Taliban’s decreasing influence.
"Most of the population of Afghanistan is today in the cities. Kabul has at least around five million in the province. So that is one-sixth of the population. When you take the other population centers, it comes to a very significant number. The Taliban do not control a single city," Ghani told TRT World.
The role of Pakistan
Ghani said he recently had a "constructive" discussion with Pakistan leaders, during which Islamabad reiterated its support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Ghani said he asked a series of “direct questions to Pakistani leaders” and he got his answers.
He explained: “The first is – is it in Pakistan’s interest to have the Taliban run Afghanistan? The answer is no. Is it in Pakistan’s national interest to have a dependent government in Kabul? They said not possible and not in their interests. Three, is connectivity to their interest and therefore, the stability of Afghanistan? And the answer is yes."
He added "This change of perspective in the top does not mean immediately the change of perspective in the middle."