Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani launched a sharply-worded attack on Pakistan at an international conference on Monday, saying the country had been waging “an undeclared state of war with us for the past 14 years”.
President Ghani’s comments were made in a videotaped address delivered to a meeting of scholars and diplomats organised in Doha — home to negotiators seeking a peace deal with the Taliban.
The Afghan President’s words came just days after he wrote a letter to the Pakistan government, demanding harsh action against the Taliban leadership based in that country. Facing intense criticism at home for signing intelligence and military cooperation pacts with Islamabad in hopes of securing a peace deal with the Taliban, pressure has further intensified on Ghani as the Islamist terror group’s most intense spring offensive in years has claimed scores of lives.
“Regardless of his firm commitment to peace, President Ghani has no choice but to become a war president to ensure the survival of his country and the safety of Afghan women and children,” the letter, released to the media, states.
In the letter, the Afghan government asks Pakistan to prove its commitment to peace by taking eight steps, including placing the Taliban leadership in Peshawar and Quetta under house arrest, and an offensive against the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network,
“The Taliban have declared their spring offensive, massive terrorist attacks have been carried out,” the letter states. “The public is asking whether there has been any return from President Ghani’s efforts to secure enduring peace and cooperation with Pakistan?”
In his address to the conference, President Ghani made no reference to the dialogue process with Pakistan or the Taliban, arguing instead for action to address what he called the “ecological system” of terrorism.
Ghani pointed to the breaking apart of sovereign states, the use of non-state actors as proxies by states, the use of force without regional consensus, failures of governance, and the lack of consensus on “the rules of game” inside Afghanistan.
Little progress has been made in talks with the Taliban, in the form of a recent dialogue conducted in Doha.
Sources here said, Ghani’s speech was unlikely to bring an end to efforts to reach out to the Taliban’s leadership — represented in Doha by a group of negotiators led by Tayyab Agha, a close associate of Mullah Muhammad Omar. The negotiators also include Sher Abbas Stanekzai, a graduate of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, who defected from Afghan forces in the mid-1970s to fight the Soviet Union.
In meetings so far, the sources said, the Taliban have declined to negotiate directly with the Afghan government until all western troops have left Islamabad, and blamed Ghani for signing a treaty that allows US trainers to stay on in the country for at least three years.
The Taliban have also declined to participate in any electoral process, calling instead for a new Constitution to be put in place.