Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy to win the war in Afghanistan, stands a better chance of working here than previous plans, because Trump wants regional approach and a harder line with Pakistan.
Speaking at an Asia Society meeting in New York, Ghani said that former President Barack Obama “did not have a partner in Afghanistan,” and his strategy to try to successfully conclude the 16-year war and withdraw U.S. troops has been failed.
Ghani did not elaborate, but his remarks implicitly criticized his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who frequently disdained U.S. policy and the U.S.-led international military force.
“President Trump is not just an individual (but) a team of partners in Afghanistan,” Ghani said. “The Trump administration’s strategy has the uniqueness of immense consultations with us.”
Ghani gave Obama credit for his decision to maintain some U.S. forces in Afghanistan rather than following his pledge to pull them all out, saying that decision “ensured our survival” at a time when Taliban militants were strengthening in their drive to defeat and unseat the government.
Asked how Trump’s strategy differs from Obama‘s, Ghani said Trump’s plan takes “a regional approach” to security and a harder line with Pakistan while providing a new opening for peace talks.
“The message to Pakistan to engage and become a responsible stakeholder in the region and in the fight against terrorism has never been clearer,” Ghani said. “What I am offering the Pakistan government, the Pakistan security apparatus, is the invitation to a comprehensive dialogue.”
“If Pakistan does not take this opportunity, I think they will pay a high price,” he said, without elaborating.
“Afghans are determined to fight,” he said. “No one should mistake our will to defend our country.”
Ghani, in a separate interview with National Public Radio due to air on Wednesday revealed some details of Trump’s Afghanistan strategy not previously disclosed by the White House.
He said the administration’s objective is to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan back under the government’s control in the next four years. The United States currently estimates that the government directly controls only about half the country.
Ghani told NPR that the new strategy’s goal is to double the size of the Afghan commando force and elevate it from a division to a corps command, while bolstering the Afghan military’s airpower.
All this would occur as Kabul overhauls its military leadership, he said.
“We ourselves are changing management and leadership. Our minister of defense is under 40. A new generation is taking over,” he told NPR, adding that older generals are being honorably retired.
As for when the 16-year-long war would end, Ghani said at the Asia Society meeting, “I think we are not talking a decade or longer. We are talking some limited years.”
With Inputs from Reuters and RFERL