March 22nd, 2015
10:22 AM ET

Exclusive: Afghan Pres. on Fareed Zakaria GPS


The following is a transcript from an exclusive interview between the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. President Ghani spoke with Fareed Zakaria during his visit to the United States about the ISAF withdrawal from Afghanistan and the issues within Afghanistan’s borders.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Ghani on Afghanistan’s transitions: “What we need to realize is that 2014 was a year that we faced three transitions simultaneously – a political transition where authority for the first time was transferred from one elected president to another; a security transition where the combat role of the international community, particularly that of the United States, ended; and third, an economic transition. Our enemies were banking on collapse of authority. Because of that, they challenged us. But what I am gratified to share is that during the last six months, the Afghan national security forces have really shown their mettle. Now we are not in a defensive position. We have taken offensive.”

 Ghani on the ISAF withdrawal: “Well the first point is that I'd like to pay tribute to the Americans – I believe 2,215 who paid the ultimate sacrifice; over 20,000 Americans that have been wounded; hundreds of thousands of Americans, men and women, who've seen combat in Afghanistan. They’ve gotten to know our valleys, our desserts, our mountains. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with us. The result is that America has been secure, thank God. There's been no terrorist attack on mainland United States. We have been the front line. Meanwhile, what needs to be underlined is while tragedy brought us together, there are common interests that now can be articulated very clearly. The threats that we are facing on a daily basis, were they, God forbid, to overwhelm us, will threaten the world at large.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: The Obama administration might have snubbed Mr. Netanyahu when he came to Washington to address Congress. But this week, they will welcome another world leader who arrives to address a joint session of Congress.

Ashraf Ghani has been President of Afghanistan for less than six months and he has a tough task ahead of him: stabilizing a country wrecked by more than 30 years of war. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick on American troop drawdowns.

///

And we are joined from Kabul by Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan. Mr. President, thank you for being on.

ASHRAF GHANI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: It's a pleasure to be with you and with the American people.

ZAKARIA: You have reportedly told the administration, a senior administration official says, that you would like flexibility in the timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. Right now there are 10,000 troops. In two years, they go zero. What would you like to see? Two years from now, how many American troops do you think should still be in Afghanistan?

GHANI: The decision on the number of the American troops is that – up to the president of the United States and the Congress of the United States. We are very satisfied with the way the non-combat mission is shaping. But the primary duty of defending Afghanistan, securing its future, is that of the Afghan people, the Afghan soldiers, policemen, and that of the Afghan government.

ZAKARIA: But Mr. President, the - last year, 2014, was the year of the worst casualties for the Afghan Army and the national police force in the 13-year war. And you have almost 3,700 civilians who died. So in these circumstances, does it make sense for American troops to withdraw on the same schedule? Wouldn't you like to see perhaps even more American troops for the time being, while the fighting seems to be in full force?

GHANI: What we need to realize is that 2014 was a year that we faced three transitions simultaneously – a political transition where authority for the first time was transferred from one elected president to another; a security transition where the combat role of the international community, particularly that of the United States, ended; and third, an economic transition.

Our enemies were banking on collapse of authority. Because of that, they challenged us. But what I am gratified to share is that during the last six months, the Afghan national security forces have really shown their mettle. Now we are not in a defensive position. We have taken offensive.

ZAKARIA: The UN envoy to Afghanistan reported just recently to the Security Council that ISIS – that you, which you call Daesh – is actually on the rise in a sense in Afghanistan, that there are stray insurgents that are affiliating or declaring loyalty to ISIS. What do we make of that? Why is that happening?

GHANI: The reason it's happening is because collapse of Yemen, Syria, Iraq has created an environment where instead of one weak link in the interrelated system of states, now there are wider spaces. They have – it's one of the most well-endowed finance – well-financed organizations. And the techniques are spreading.

ZAKARIA: Mr. President, you ask for flexibility. You ask the Obama administration to think about essentially delaying the withdrawal. How would you react to the average American who’d say, we've been in this war for 13 years. It's lasted a lot longer than World War II or Vietnam. Why shouldn't be just get out?

GHANI: Well the first point is that I'd like to pay tribute to the Americans – I believe 2,215 who paid the ultimate sacrifice; over 20,000 Americans that have been wounded; hundreds of thousands of Americans, men and women, who've seen combat in Afghanistan. They’ve gotten to know our valleys, our desserts, our mountains. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with us.

The result is that America has been secure, thank God. There's been no terrorist attack on mainland United States. We have been the front line. Meanwhile, what needs to be underlined is while tragedy brought us together, there are common interests that now can be articulated very clearly. The threats that we are facing on a daily basis, were they, God forbid, to overwhelm us, will threaten the world at large.

The experience of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya are now examples to draw on and to understand that when a partner that does not believe in unity and in good governance and its own responsibility is not in place, things fall apart.

ZAKARIA: Ashraf Ghani, president of Afghanistan, thank you so much, sir.

GHANI: Thank you.
###
***END***

tmpl
soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.