Afghan President Ashraf Ghani voiced confidence Monday on reaching a peace deal to end the Taliban insurgency but warned that Pakistan’s alleged meddling risked sparking long-term hostility.
“I feel that it is now not a question of if, but when,” Ghani said of a peace agreement in a wide-ranging appearance by video at Johns Hopkins University, where he was formerly a professor.
“All wars have to end politically. There are very few wars, particularly the wars of the 21st century, that are going to end militarily,” he said.
Ghani, who is running for re-election next year, said he was offering unconditional talks and pointed to an unprecedented ceasefire with the Taliban in June as a hopeful sign.
Taliban representatives recently met in Qatar with an envoy from the United States, which is eager for a way to end its longest-ever war, launched in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.
At “the international level, there is total agreement between the US government and Afghan government to move the peace process forward,” Ghani said, while stressing that Kabul rather than Washington would lead the negotiations.
But Ghani voiced disappointment over Pakistan, which was the chief supporter of the former Taliban regime. US and Afghan officials say Pakistan still allows Taliban extremists to operate from its soil.
Ghani said that last month’s killing of senior Afghan general Abdul Raziq, by a shooter who Kabul says trained in Pakistan, has “brought an intense level of distrust.”
“We equally offer peace to Pakistan to put an end to the undeclared state of hostilities between our two countries,” Ghani said.
“Should peace not prevail, my other prediction, that the two societies would go to a state of mutual distrust and increasing cultural and social hostility resembling France and Germany of 1870-1914, is likely to happen,” he said.
He was referring to the period from a resurgent Germany’s victory in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War through the outbreak of World War I, amid global commemorations Monday for the end of the “Great War.”
Pakistan denies charges of supporting the Taliban, noting that it has suffered internally from extremist violence.