Ghani says Afghanistan is ‘not at risk of collapse’

President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s decision to withdraw foreign forces set the context for a “reset” of assumptions, alignments, and actions and that the Afghan government is “not at risk of collapse”.

Addressing a virtual event organized by Azerbaijan’s Nizami Ganjavi International Center, Ghani said: “We are not at risk of collapse. The narrative of the Afghan government falling apart is a false narrative.”

According to him, Afghan commandos, special forces, and air force alone are 40,000 strong, and “they have trained among the best, they are among the best in the region.”

“As long as this force stays, there is no risk of state collapse,” Ghani said adding he is proud to be their commander-in-chief.

He also said all these forces have been brought into one command of the Afghanistan National Authority for Special Operations and that they carry out 30 to 40 operations every day “with precision and determination”.

Ghani added that the people of Afghanistan are also armed “and ready to defend their villages and districts”.

He said the nature of the war has become a challenge as there are no rules to it, pointing out that never since the Mongol invasion have women and Ulema been targeted and assassinated.

“It’s this unrestricted war that needs to end,” he said.

Ghani said he had a “very constructive” conversation with Biden on Wednesday night and a good one-and-a-half-hour meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday.

He said: “I respect President Biden’s decision,” and that in the 24 hours that followed the phone conversation he spent worked to “help frame the next chapter of our relationship with the United States, NATO, non-NATO allies” including Azerbaijan that has close to 1,000 troops in Afghanistan.

He said the fundamental issue was that as the context changes, Afghanistan must change accordingly.

Ghani pointed out that Biden’s decision was a game-changer as “it forces all actors and stakeholders in the region, in Eurasia, in the Islamic world and globally to rethink their assumptions.”

He said Biden’s decision now removes the uncertainty over whether US troops would be withdrawn adding that this uncertainty has hovered over Afghanistan for the past two years.

“Now the ambiguity has been removed, we have clarity.”

Ghani also stated it brings an end to the narrative of US/NATO being “part of a larger regional competition and Afghanistan as a site of the competition with other big powers”.

“Also, I hope this puts an end to conspiracy theories,” he said adding that for Afghanistan, it is now a narrative of responsibility, of partnership, of nation-building, peacebuilding and market building among others.

Regional countries will also have to rethink the parameters of their own security and their partnerships with Afghanistan he said adding that the UN will get a “renewed importance” in its function as a peacemaker.

Ghani said Biden’s move heralds a new chapter in the strategic partnership with the US and according to Blinken the Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) will “remain intact” while assistance for the defense and security forces and humanitarian assistance will continue.

He said this was, however “a moment of choice for the Taliban. Will they opt for peace that is on the table? Or will they opt for conquest?”

Ghani stated that Biden and Stoltenberg’s announcement on the withdrawal of troops also provided “a moment of choice for Pakistan.”

He said for Pakistan it is a decision of destiny. “Will it opt for regional cooperation, international partnership, and regional prosperity through joint efforts, or will it give way to the forces that have tendered to support and sustain the Taliban and the wave of extremism for which Pakistan next to Afghanistan has probably paid the highest price? So, it is a moment of decision.”

Ghani also reiterated earlier commitments that for the sake of peace he was willing to hold elections within the next six to 12 months so the people “can choose their leader”.