KABUL (Pajhwok): President Ashraf Ghani says intelligence estimates indicate the influx of over 10,000 jihadi fighters from Pakistan and other places into Afghanistan in the past month.
Addressing an international conference in Uzbekistan on Friday, the president lashed out at Pakistan for aiding the Taliban and other terrorist outfits.
Ghani urged the neighbouring country to use its influence and leverage for peace and cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan.
He questioned repeated assurances from Prime Minister Imran Khan and his generals that they did not find a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in Pakistan’s interest.
The president also queried Islamabad’s promises to use its power to and influence to make the Taliban negotiate seriously with the Afghan government.
He alleged networks and organisations supporting the Taliban were openly celebrating the destruction of Afghanistan’s assets and capabilities.
Ghani said there was a consensus among credible international observers that the Taliban had not taken any steps to sever their ties with terrorist organisations.
“Contrary to the declarations of their political office that they will not attack cities and provincial centres, they are accelerating their attacks and attempting to starve the cities,” he said.
“We are prepared to face the Taliban and their supporters for as long as it takes until they realise that a political solution is the only way forward,” the president remarked.
Ghani once again called on the Taliban to engage with his government in sincere talks on ending the war and the destructive recent onslaught.
Asking the region to demonstrate a sense of urgency, he said: “The lessons learnt are clear. Without regional consensus and support, peace does not prevail.”
He went on to explain that plunging Afghanistan into all-out war amounted to pushing the region into radical uncertainty.
Pakistan, therefore, needed to be engaged coherently and urgently from the perspective of the regional interest, the president argued.
On the sidelines of the event, Ghani met his Uzbek president, a US delegation and the Pakistani prime minister.
The week from July 8 to 15 offered a window of opportunities and challenge, captured through his interactions with Afghan men and women in Kabul and provinces that he visited.
He said the opportunities could be summed up as follows:
First, the US and NATO partners have left behind considerable assets, provided concrete commitments to assistance and are framing the future as a new chapter of relationship.
Bagram airport, which he visited on July 9, alone has an estimated $3 billion worth.
It used to be the busiest airport in the world for 10 years. His administration plans to turn Bagram and other military airports into hubs of trade and connectivity.
The investments made by the people, as illustrated by his visits to Khost and Mazar-i-Sharif, provide for lives with dignity. The people have put all their resources into creating livelihoods for themselves.
Second, as a state, Afghanistan is dedicated to a clear vision for peace, stability and prosperity through internal reforms and regional cooperation.
“Our reforms, ranging from digitalisation of the government to the overhaul of our budget and revenue to construction of major irrigation and development projects are in implementation.
:I was delighted to welcome 161 people on the first direct flight from the UAE to the brand-new airport in Khost on July 10. I associated myself with President Mirziyoyev’s proposal for regional projects.”
Third, pursuit of a political settlement to the conflict with the Taliban has been a national priority. The end-state of a sovereign, united, democratic, peaceful and connected Afghanistan has been endorsed internationally and regionally.
Fourth, the enabling legal environment for utilisation of Afghanistan’s natural wealth– ranging from mining, oil and gas to renewable energy in geothermal, hydro, solar and wind has been created.
“We are talking not about megawatts but gigawatts of energy. We announced the award of a series of mining contracts on the 8th of July and finalized the process of procurement of over a hundred construction contracts on the 10th of July.”
Fifth, the Islamic Republic as a constitutional system of government and the Afghan National and Defense Forces (ANDSF) have strong public support. “Thanks to technology, I have been interacting with governors, defence and security officials across the country on an hourly basis to concentrate our forces and strictly practice economy of effort. I am delighted that recruitment to our all-voluntary forces is considerably up.”
Amid the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and a severe drought threatening Afghanistan, he accused the Taliban of unleashing a destructive wave of attacks across the country.
Contrary to their commitments to the US to pursue a political solution, he said the fighters had deployed over 5,000 prisoners released at the request of the international community and the Loya Jirga as the vanguard of these attacks.
Over 50 of the largest drug dealers released at international request provided financial backing for the onslaught, the president claimed.
The destruction of public assets, including over 260 buildings, and systematic looting of these facilities marked their trail of devastation, he added.
Taliban’s reliance on car bombings, assassination campaigns, targeted killing of women and civil society leaders and summary execution of prisoners of war constituted their arsenal, the president continued.
These practices are forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee to cities and secure provinces. The only choice offered by the Taliban is that of submission and surrender.
With the Afghan people and government fully committed to peace, their security forces would defend their land, he said, concluding: “After all, the tree of liberty is often sustained by the blood of patriots.”
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