President Ashraf Ghani says the war in Afghanistan has killed only 98 Americans since 2015, while over 40,000 Afghan civilians and troops have been killed in the same period.
“Since I have been President – since 2015 – the number of Americans that have lost their lives is 98. While we, the Afghan people, have lost over 40,000 civilians and military. We are in the front line of your security,” President Ghani told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“The key issue is not charity for us or responsibility,” the Afghan president said.
“We are assuming responsibility for our future. So if the United States would like to withdraw, all we ask for is a process that is predictable that is mutually agreed,” he noted.
Ghani urged US President-elect Joe Biden to make his decision and “then together we will forge a pathway to make sure our mutual interests are ensured.”
The Biden administration must “define what US security interests in Afghanistan and the region are. No one wants a return to a heavy footprint,” Ghani said.
“The scale and scope of US presence in Afghanistan needs to be defined. Here the most critical issue is how to marry a condition-based approach with a time-based approach,” he added.
The administration of Donald Trump recently announced that the United States will reduce the current number of American troops in Afghanistan from 5,000 to 2,500 by January 15, 2021.
In a historic deal clinched between the US and the Afghan Taliban militant group in February, the United States promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban to stop their attacks on US-led occupation foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The Taliban agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government. However, the militant group has not yet fulfilled any of its commitments.
Referring to the US-Taliban deal and the peace talks, Ghani told CNN that the “process has been slow because over four months were spent just dealing with procedure.”
However, he added, the message of the beginning of the second round of talks is “can we agree on the goal that the international community and the region has agreed with us namely a sovereign, democratic, united Afghanistan at peace with itself and the region.”
“If that goal becomes accepted, we can move forward. But if the objective of the Taliban is to dominate and give us the peace of the grave then that will have very negative consequences. Our society is united and seeking peace but we want to have a positive peace,” he made it clear.
Ghani also addressed the Americans and stressed that the peace process has to be owned by the Kabul government.
“I have been leading the peace process; I’ve owned it; I secured the first ceasefire in 2018 in our history. The process must now be truly owned by the Afghan government and the Afghan people,” he noted.
He further noted that his “basic goal is to be able to hand power through the will of the people to his elected successor.”
“This is crucial to enable us to both honor the sacrifice of our civilians, our activists, and others,” he said.
“One thing needs to be clear; Afghan society is not willing to go back and we are not a type of society that the Taliban-type approach of the past can be imposed on us. That was the peace of the graveyard. We want a positive peace where all of us together overcome our past, embrace each other and together rebuild an Afghanistan that can be what I call a roundabout where all civilizations, all people, all activities can interact,” he added.
Ghani also pointed to his country’s relations with Iran, and said the US sanctions have overshadowed Tehran-Kabul ties.
The Afghanistan government must have short-term, medium-term and long-term relations with Iran, he said.
Two million Afghans live in Iran, and our relationship must be based on mutual interests, President Ghani said, adding that he hopes the resumption of talks between the United States and Iran will have positive results for Afghanistan.