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What is Ashraf Ghani's plan to end Afghanistan's 40-year conflict?

Given the similarities between Afghanistan and Pakistan's situations, what lessons can Islamabad learn from Kabul?
Updated Sep 25, 2017 10:05am

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in an on-the-record session at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York moderated by the President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Rescue Committee, David Milliband, offered interesting insights into Kabul's strategy for tackling its 40-year-long conflict and struggle against terrorism.

The Afghan government, Ghani said, is working on a four-year 'multi-dimensional' security reform programme, the fundamental aim of which is to provide grounds for a political settlement to the Afghan conflict.

Although United States (US) President Donald Trump's announcement of a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia was met with backlash in Pakistan, the strategy is something Ghani welcomed.

"It's what we've been waiting for, and the implications are quite significant," he said at the CFR talk.

He went onto explain that US troops are set to play a role in the overhaul of Afghan security forces in terms of leadership, management, systems and processes under the programme.

However, the programme has two other major components: Pak-Afghan peace and political dialogue with the Taliban.

In addition to these components, tackling poverty, judicial reform and infrastructural development are all believed to be factors that set the stage for sustainable peace in Afghanistan, according to Ghani.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Afghanistan's reform programme, and what it means ─ for Kabul, Islamabad, and the region at large.

Read the complete transcript of Ashraf Ghani's session at the Council of Foreign Relations here.

WHAT ROLE WILL THE US PLAY IN AFGHANISTAN?

Ashraf Ghani explains that the security transition in Afghanistan has been completed, and troops on the ground are now solely Afghan security forces. US troops, however, will provide training and assistance to them.


"Let me first explain what the strategy does not do. It does not return American soldiers to combat roles. The process of security transition is completed. We are not reversing that process.

The fighting and, unfortunately, the dying is being done with valour and distinction by our security forces to whom I pay tribute.

Contrary to expectation, in 2014 when I was given the honour of serving my people, that the majority of the commentators thought neither the government would last, nor our security forces. We’ve shown our resilience. And this resilience will now be expanded and increased.

Second, the number is modest. The increase in number of American forces is extraordinarily modest in contrast to the major surge that took place under President Obama in his first term.

The function that these troops will be performing will be advise, assist, and train. Why are they needed? Because of the reform programme that we have underway. And they will be going to the company and division level to help us complete the reform process.

What is important about this strategy is its multi-dimensionality.

The overarching framework is the four-year security reform program under which our security forces would be overhauled in terms of leadership and management and systems and processes.

This process is fully underway in the Ministry of Defence. And it will be implemented now in the Ministry of Interior."

WHAT WOULD A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT ENTAIL?

Ghani outlines what a political settlement to the war would entail, what form it would take, and why it may benefit all parties taking part in the process.


"What is fundamental about this strategy is to provide the ground for a political settlement.

And that political settlement involves two major components, and then the remaining threats that we have to deal with.

The first of these is a comprehensive discussion between Afghanistan and Pakistan as two states, state-to-state relationship, so the inherited problems of the last 40 years can be addressed.

Without peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan, political settlement in Afghanistan alone is not sufficient.

And second, is I hope and invite — I hold my hand out to Taliban groups and invite them for political discussion. So we can have an upfront dialogue that will bring an end to violence as a means of conversation.

Conflict is a relation, but it’s not a relation that’s productive.

Our political dialogue within the framework of the constitution modelled on the process that we followed with Hezb-i-Islami would be a critical ingredient of ensuring that the rights and obligations of citizenship are fulfilled.

What I earlier indicated, and welcome very much the strategy, is condition-based not time-based.

And this gives us the opportunity to tell people, get a watch, because the famous quip was the West and Afghan government have watches, but Taliban have time. They do not have the time.

The reason they do not have the time is because of the type of actions that had been committed that have lost—that have brought enormous disenchantment.

We need to understand that the tolerance of the Afghan public for violence has limits.

We need to act on the lessons of history and bring an end to violence as a means of dialogue and replace it with a political process of dialogue, where the strategy equally is not — it’s not a blank check.

The first issue is that it should be very clear to them that they cannot win militarily. And they still had, prior to the announcement of the South Asia strategy, they had confidence that they could win, or at least they could destabilise without the cost. That thing is becoming costly.

If they want to choose certain death, it will be their responsibility. They’re losing lives. Their leadership is committing criminal acts by sending young men to their certain death. In the past month, they have lost over 1,300 men. This is unnecessary bloodshed. So the cost is rising very, very substantially. And the capability is increasing.

The second part is the need for engagement. But the type of engagement differs.

We can have — our agreement with Hezb-i-Islami was an intra-Afghan agreement, carried out in Kabul, to the Peace Council and then endorsed by the National Security Council and the government.

Throughout, the representatives of Hezb-i-Islami came, they left in an open environment.

They had full access to the media, to the public, to forms of association.

And finally, their leader came. But Hezb-i-Islami had a leader who could act and decide. And today, he lives in Kabul.

Is this possible? That goes back as to whether they can speak for themselves or not.

So there’s a fundamental choice for the Taliban. Will they have the will and the ability to speak for themselves as Afghans to other Afghans? Or do they want to give the right of speaking and representation to a foreign power for them? That’s their decision. It’s not ours.

But we want to make sure that they have the possibility of engaging in a dialogue. The question of the outcomes depends on the processes.

We have prepared a full process with a full outline of the issues to be discussed.

Clare Lockhart and I wrote a long piece on peace agreements summarising the entire ’90s decade, because peace broke out. And there are key issues that recur with regularity in almost every peace agreement.

The distinction I’ll make, and it’s necessary to make, is between peacemaking and peacebuilding.

Peacemaking is the ability to come to see that politics... it shows them there is a price to be paid.

You wouldn’t have had dinner with those people who are acting — engaging in acts of terror. But tomorrow, because...of the peace... you sat down with them and incorporated them into the government. That’s the internal process.

There’s a democratic process second. Let them participate in the elections and see what—how many people vote for them. If they think they have support, let them contest the elections.

If the people of Afghanistan want to elect them as the next president, more power to them. If they want to elect them to parliament, etc. This is the democratic process.

The other component of this, in terms of maintaining peace, is the need for security.

And here, the security reform programme, it’s absolutely essential that the security sector is depoliticised. It becomes truly national and everybody can trust. So it’s not a Hobbesian deal, but it is a Lockean deal, that you entrust collective security to the state institutions.

Now, the obstacle. The fundamental issue is that the Afghan people, like a lot of other people, associate peace with security.

But the global experience is that peace is delegitimated violence, but it’s not necessarily broad security.

So that we need to make sure that public support for peace is translated into real security, and particularly for utilisation of Afghanistan’s resources.

The second lesson of these peace agreements is that ex-combatants have not been included. And we have a fundamental issue: 40 per cent of the population still lives below poverty level.

We don’t want to increase this and turn — the risk in a lot of these countries after peacemaking has been increase in criminality.

And given the drug problem, which is a criminal-organisation problem, we need to make sure that we have a comprehensive understanding.

Again, to make the main point, that peace discussion — invitation to peace discussions are unconditional. The outcomes need to be based on maintaining the goal — the gains of the last.

Women’s [rights] are nonnegotiable. We cannot put our women to apartheid. They won’t take it. And if Taliban want to engage in any democratic process, they need to understand that the women are part of this.

The adjustment to everybody is to understand that Afghanistan today is not Afghanistan of 1996 or 2001."

'NO PERSONAL ISSUE WITH PAKISTAN'

Despite 'fundamental differences in interest' and the failure to engage, Afghanistan continues to seek comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, Ghani says.


"I reached out to Pakistan upon weeks of becoming president. I am the rare Afghan president, or the rare civilian leader in the area, to have gone to the army headquarters for a detailed conversation, because the argument was that this—that disputes, the disagreements, the misunderstandings were based on persons.

And what became very clear, that there was no personal issue. There was a fundamental set of differences in interest.

And unfortunately, repeated assurances that we would engage were not realised.

Now we are looking to an opportunity to have a comprehensive dialogue."

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Afghanistan's reform programme, and what it means ─ for Kabul, Islamabad, and the region at large.

Read the complete transcript of Ashraf Ghani's session at the Council of Foreign Relations here.

'SHEER GRINDING POVERTY'

David Milliband asks Ghani to "give a sense of daily life for Afghans". Despite efforts to improve security and economy, "sheer grinding poverty for a large number of your [Afghan] citizens" is what appears to play a key role in militancy.

"The fact that the Taliban recruit with economic incentives that are of a — what we would see as a low level but nonetheless can be life-changing for the people that they are trying to bribe into their ranks. Can you talk a bit about what that challenge is and how you think the international community can support you on the economic and humanitarian front, not just the military front?" asks Milliband.

Ghani provides a series of damning figures highlighting the poverty faced by ordinary citizens.


"No, absolutely. We have a program called National Solidarity, and now it’s going to expand its charter.

Mr. Atmar — (inaudible) — the national security adviser, was the first minister of rural development, that consolidated.

And scale is really important. The largest scale through the United Nations system was 40 villages. We reach for 34,000 villages.

But let me bring you a portrait from a conference that we hold annually for members of national solidarity.

The picture is the following.

What percentage can afford three meals a day and can put their kids through college in a village?

This is a village in Parwan, but repeated across others — 10pc.

What percentage of population can afford two meals a day and put people through high school? That’s around 40pc.

What percentage can afford one meal a day and put a child through fourth grade to sixth grade? That’s another 30 to 40pc.

What percentage looks to the meal — to its next meal and is uncertain and cannot put children to school? This is the rest.

The other factor: 15pc of the population goes to bed hungry every night.

30pc of the population to 40 percent has chronic food deficiency three months a year, or two months of the year, etc.

What have we gained?

In 2001 — I returned on December 26, 2001, after 24 years.

At that time we were absolutely at the end of our coping strategies — five years of drought, etc.

I went to my ancestral village where my family has been for 600 years. I embrace 600 men.

There’s only bones. There was no meat on anyone. I went to the university with my former colleagues. Their faces looked like leather.

I fly a lot of — I flew a lot over, and I drove, and I do still.

60pc of the population has regained coping strategy.

40pc of the population lives below a dollar-thirty-five. So the immense—but what is different is also that we’ve become one of the most unequal societies on the face of the earth.

For all these poor people — and this again is captured by proverb — the proverb in the province of Kandahar used to be that when a villager makes it, life of 100 people improves with him. Now they say when a villager makes it, 100 other people are thrown into poverty. It’s repressive.

The elite has not fulfilled its function to hold the country together. It’s gone for accumulation.

So the inequality is a fundamental driver. Unemployment — hidden unemployment — because of it, it— but where’s the tragedy?

The tragedy is again, you know, we can become the largest producer of copper and iron in the world within 10 years.

We’ll become a major player in the gold within five years.

We will be a decisive vote on lithium and rare earth.

We have 14 of the 17 rare earths.

Afghanistan has been called — used to be called by the Russians the Mendeleev table.

The richness; the water resources, at least 22 billion cubic meters of water that needs to be harnessed; land — it’s a — it’s this — because of this, an economic strategy that is both about growth but also about inclusive growth is central.

Second, social security.

We have 1.5 million people who were martyred.

If investing in a girl changes five generations, a female-headed household condemns three generations of girls to poverty and to abuse.

We have close to 1m people with disabilities, a lot of them war-caused; internal displacement, another million.

So this means that the social policy is absolutely essential.

The issue is not to fragment, not to put the three into silos so that the humanitarian becomes just perpetuation of humanitarian.

The illustration — instead of building liveable cities, we’ve built slums.

75pc of Kabul is informal because the humanitarian community absolutely failed to have the imagination to give people property rights. They could have built. But the need for humanitarian assistance and on top of this — last point — 5m Afghans who were refugees have returned.

Last year we were the country that absorbed the largest number of returnees, over 1.1m people.

The need to work with this and incorporate — and still we have 4 m people out — I always say that I feel that I’m missing an arm and a leg, because until we have this population abroad, we are not whole.

And we need to make sure that the social fabric is renegotiated into a compact where we feel bound together in a common — (inaudible)."

AFGHANISTAN'S VULNERABILITY TO TERRORISM

Ghani provides some context into what makes Afghanistan vulnerable to terrorism geographically and ecologically.


"Why Afghanistan? One, because of history.

Al Qaeda was an isolated man and see what he did. They want to repeat that history.

Second because of location. We are at the heart of Asia and today there’s a struggle between two platforms.

Will Afghanistan become the platform for stability in a round-about for connectivity? Or will it become the centre of 'Terrorism Incorporated'?

Terror is because of ecology. The ecology of Afghanistan offers the best potential, you know, mountains, valleys, 2,000 (meters), 5,000 meters above sea level, and, in terms of access, with ability to disrupt.

But the most significant sector, of course, is that the headquarters for all of these organisations is elsewhere and they would like to push this onto us.

And it’s important to realise that if all these things came together — just one illustration: We arrested a Kazakh in the Sar-i-Pol province in northern Afghanistan. He had been wanted by the Kazakh government through the Interpol for six years. And it was an amazing range of information and relationships and with networks that are revealed.

The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, the Chinese movement, it’s amazing when you see the way they move around.

The threat now is because Daesh openly called on its followers in January of 2017 not to go to Iraq and Syria, but target Afghanistan first.

So that the presence is really increased because, you know, and, again, we are an open-frontiers society, movement is much easier, so the threat is very real and the desirability is for destabilisation of global economy.

The target of this wave of terrorism is what your father had written immensely about: It’s the contract between the citizen and the state.

They want to make sure that the Western states, the states in the Western countries, that is, the embodiment of a social contract, is shown to be impotent.

So they’re targeting civil spaces, open spaces, spaces of dialogue, spaces of worship, spaces of congregation and association.

This war requires a different way of dealing with — (inaudible)."

'COMMITTED TO REFORM'

Ghani discusses why Afghanistan is the frontline of defence against terrorism, and what it plans to leverage in order to rebuild itself.


"Afghanistan is not Vietnam. First, we have endured the first test. Over 100,000 troops were withdrawn and we have stood firm. We’ve paid immense sacrifices for our freedom and continue to do so.

Second, the engagement of the United States in Afghanistan, it’s not because of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a platform where a global struggle between terrorism and forces of order is taking place.

That threat, unfortunately, is nowhere eliminated. The level of the threat compared to 2001 and the tragedy of 9/11, now particularly in this city and this location, where we’ve had detailed conversation, unfortunately still remains.

So the threat of terrorism is what brings us together in a binding relationship.

In that regard, we are the first line — not only the frontline state, but the first line of defence of freedoms and democratic processes.

And thirdly, we are absolutely committed as a government and as a people to reform our governance processes to ensure that we are not a burden but an asset.

And in that regard, our tragedy is that we are potentially one of the richest countries in the region.

The natural resources that we have been endowed with by the almighty are immense.

But simultaneously, our country is inhabited by some of the poorest people on earth.

Because of this, regional connectivity is our key goal.

After we’ve reversed 117 years of history by rejoining Central Asia, Afghanistan today enjoys the best of relationship with every single one of its northern neighbours and their neighbours.

This is a historical transformation under way.

Trains from China are reaching our border.

Pipeline, railways, transmission lines—a huge series of efforts is under way.

And the key to this is harnessing both the natural wealth of Afghanistan and its immense human capital."

PLANS FOR CHANGE

Ghani responds to a question on what Afghanistan is doing to develop its wealth of natural resources, and what the chief obstacles to this development are.


"First what we are doing is bringing power. Without power, the natural wealth cannot be development.

So a comprehensive approach to power, both to produce but particularly transmit.

At stake is transmitting 5,000-15,000 megawatts of power from Central Asia to South Asia to Afghanistan.

Energy is the infrastructure of infrastructure.

Second is transport.

We’re linked now to the Central Asia and Caucasus networks and to China.

And the development of railways is absolutely essential.

We’ve done one calculation. We could have an export of $500m a year to China just for marble, just one item, marble. We have 40 billion cubic meters of — estimated cubic meters of marble, 60 colours.

Third is policy. Policy stability is absolutely essential.

And fourth in this regard, and this — we’re in the discussion, again, with OPIC and a number of others — it’s risk guarantees.

Without risk guarantees, of the development of the minerals will not happen.

You need to have forms of risk guarantee and forms of insurance to be against various forms of risk, to be able to do this.

And fifth, we’re advocating detailed decisions."

ROLE OF REGIONAL POWERS IN DEVELOPMENT

Ghani is asked what role he sees China, Russia, Iran and other regional powers playing in the future economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.


"China’s engagement and India’s equally, these are the two fundamental economic giants of the region, as well as the Caucasus and West Asia.

Afghanistan would be foolish not to have a diversified relationship.

What is under way is an event comparable to 1869.

In 1869, the Atlantic and Pacific Railways were joined to form the continental economy of the United States.

Asia is moving from an idea to becoming an economy. Asia has been a concept, it’s not been an economic reality.

Long-distance trade does not weave you together, it’s the commodities. And our location is going to become the most advantageous asset that we have.

With China, we’re working on a five-country rail, and that would be transformative also with Uzbekistan and others — with Iran and India, with the development of Chabahar Port and the related railway system, and with Russia, it’s — what we are doing with Uzbekistan.

In October, there will be a comprehensive agreement when I visit, hopefully, Uzbekistan on trade, transit, and investment.

Afghanistan’s rejoining of Central Asia, I’ll just give you one illustration: Two years ago, our imports from Kazakhstan were $35m. This year, it’s $350 million.

Kazakh wheat is the most competitive. We don’t need to import any wheat from Pakistan.

And by contrast, the fee that we were paying to Karachi last year was $1.2 billion. This year it’s $200m.

Afghanistan is a diversified place. You know, if people think that one country can put a stop to our economic growth, our integration, they need to think. But all of us have something in common."

'JUDICIAL SECTOR REALLY MOVING'

In response to a question, the Afghan president discusses changes to the judiciary and a four-year plan for judicial reform to tackle corruption and instil trust in the justice system.


"Five generals, including a lieutenant general that I promoted to lieutenant general, are now in prison for corruption. Duly prosecuted in a court of law in a justice centre, and now in prison.

One of the richest men in Afghanistan was, again, found in violation of the contract and is now in prison.

The judicial sector is really moving. Every single provincial appellate court justice has been changed.

Over 1,400 positions in the supreme court, under the direction of the chief justice, has changed.

I’ve had the honour of appointing three judges to the supreme court, and now a full reform quorum is in place. And I’ll have the opportunity to name three other justices to the supreme court.

I had the distinctive honour of nominating the first woman to the supreme court, a remarkable woman who’s heading a justice centre against corruption. She lost by eight votes because the women of parliament did not cooperate. So shame on them. And I hope that they will mobilise better, because they’d assured me. On top the foundation has been laid.

Again, I can claim, without contradiction, that I’ve not taken a single step to interfere or to suggest ways in a judicial case.

The autonomy of the justice sector is sacred to me. I said during the campaign, and I repeated, the day they hold one of my rulings or policies not to be in accord with constitution, I’ll celebrate, because the justice sector really holds the balance.

And it’s extraordinarily important. Are we delivering at the bottom? No, because corruption was the order.

Now we’ve articulated a very comprehensive anti-corruption strategy based on five pillars. And implementation of this will make the rule of law possible.

We need to understand, rule of law cannot take place if the two parties are not equal in front of the judge.

I reviewed 5,000 cases from the 19th century, and the most important thing was the impartial nature of justice.

Our advantage is that our tradition of justice, justice in the Islamic theory of governance, is the foundation of state, and it’s the glue that really holds together.

We are now working comprehensively.

We have a four-year plan, particularly fitting because we would be celebrating the 1,400th anniversary of Islam.

And on that day I hope that we can show very, very substantial change from a justice sector that was universally distrusted to one that would be trusted."

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Afghanistan's reform programme, and what it means ─ for Kabul, Islamabad, and the region at large.

Read the complete transcript of Ashraf Ghani's session at the Council of Foreign Relations here.

EVOLVING LANDSCAPE OF TERRORISM

Ashraf Ghani speaks about how terrorism has evolved over time in terms of its cyclical nature, and how terror groups recruit and finance.


"The first thing is I’d warned about Daesh. And I warned about Daesh in my first weeks.

People thought I was inventing a threat to get attention.

The term that I put forward in Munich was the fifth wave. The current wave of terrorism is the fifth, beginning with the first wave starting with anarchism in Europe.

Each of those waves unfortunately has lasted two to three decades.

The uncertainty is that response to terrorism, because of the political cycles of elections and others, is short term. We do not understand, I would submit, the scale and scope of the problem.

Three things are combined:

First, transnational terrorist networks, but the nature of network is radically different than the networks that were formed by Al Qaeda.

If Al Qaeda was version one of network formation, Daesh is version four to six in terms of network theory. There’s some excellent work done by Centcom, open source, that demonstrates.

Second is transnational criminal organisations.

Daesh and the related terrorist organisations today are the best-financed networks in history.

And crime, particularly the war in Afghanistan, cannot be understand apart from it the drug war.

The parallels to Colombia and now to Mexico are striking, and we need to understand the second element.

The third component is, again, the cyberspace.

All previous networks of violence were face-to-face, usually cells of five spread around with degrees of anonymity.

Now it’s face-to-Facebook, it’s not face-to-face, but face-to-Facebook. (Laughter.)

And this means the pattern of recruitment and organisation is very different and, embedded in a context of a century of frustrations would change in Muslim-majority countries, it’s become a lethal book."

HAS AFGHANISTAN 'DONE ENOUGH'?

The Afghan president answers a question commonly posed to both Kabul and Islamabad ─ whether they have 'done enough' against terrorism.


Have we done enough about terrorism? Who more than us has fought it?

Madam, on 31st of May, Kabul turned into a carnage. If it were not for the heroic deeds of five Afghan policemen, who stopped the truck right in front of the German embassy, Kabul could have entered the Guinness Book of Records as the slaughter place of diplomats.

The way we are under attack by terrorist networks — a six-month-old girl that has been raped, to a 70-year-old man that has been made to sit on a bomb and explode it.

The level of atrocities — the latest was — again, that was in Shinwar. The latest was in Mirza Olang, in Sar-i-Pul, where people in cold blood were shot.

And our attorney general has had an extensive investigation. These are crimes against humanity.

We are the first target.

Since the completion of security transition on December 31st, 2014, all the fighting is being done by us, and under distinctive constraints, because we have had to win back our partnerships.

And I’m very proud of my colleagues and myself in the government of national unity that we have ensured that the foundation of partnership with the United States and Nato is now one of trust and mutual confidence.

What is different about this strategy is now it’s not timebound; it’s condition-bound. And it is multiple instruments.

Economic is really coming to the fore with a very important set of discussions so that we can issue — address the issue of growth of development of the natural wealth of Afghanistan in service of the people of Afghanistan and to pay for our own security in the future, and equally the regional component of it.

The discussion with President Trump was excellent. A good portion of it is on public record because it was recorded. I’m confident that the president means what he says.

And I’m very hopeful that you will be witnessing a significant dialogue with Pakistan. And I hope that Pakistan authorities will take my offer of comprehensive dialogue so we can bring an end—and put an end to this tragedy.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Afghanistan's reform programme, and what it means ─ for Kabul, Islamabad, and the region at large.

Read the complete transcript of Ashraf Ghani's session at the Council of Foreign Relations here.

HOW CAN AFGHANISTAN END THE CONFLICT?

Ghani speaks about how the Afghan conflict can come to an end, and what role Pakistan can play in the process.


On the fundamental question, the last and important question and the overwhelming question, how do we end the war?

First, by persuading Pakistan that we need to come in South Asia to a Westphalian regime.

South Asia is still in a pre-Westphalian phase.

States routinely sponsor malign non-state actors and use them as instruments of policy. This has been called the instrument of the weak vis-à-vis strong or others.

And the reason states can come together is now because of two sets of interests.

One, terrorism is not going to recognise a supportive state from a non-state supportive.

It rebounds on its sponsors. And this is a threat that we really need to take seriously.

It’s — if history is a guide — and I hope I’m wrong — it’s more a 20-year problem rather than a two-year problem. It requires coordination, and coordination among states is absolutely key.

Second, poverty — millions of people in Pakistan have sank into poverty.

The gains of earlier — it’s not just that poverty has not diminished; it’s increased. And as I said, 40pc of our people live under poverty.

There’s a — distinctive cooperation is a much more distinctive advantage that conflict.

There is no competition between states and being bad. We all become losers of this process.

So that is a fundamental thing, because without sanctuary, one’s sanctuary is denied, one’s logistics supports, one’s open recruitment, etc, the rules will change.

Second is the openness of our system to be able to take genuine grievances and work out through mechanisms of participation.

And learn from Ireland: If you want a political settlement, you have to be willing to talk and talk seriously, and undertake the necessary adjustments that peace demands.

That means you have to persuade a woman whose child is blown to smithereens and the child left for school in the hope of learning.

You have to persuade a wife whose husband was blown up in a mosque, etc.

You know, this is now — we need to understand that we need a comprehensive national dialogue.

This cannot be the job of one person or even the — to the most important elected office.

We have to force the consensus.

And that means the other parties need to come and embrace a political process of dialogue and understanding.

Is it tough? Extremely. But is it absolutely necessary? Yes.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Afghanistan's reform programme, and what it means ─ for Kabul, Islamabad, and the region at large.

Read the complete transcript of Ashraf Ghani's session at the Council of Foreign Relations here.