Wed, Sep

A Country to Build': Afghanistan's President Gives an Exclusive Interview to TIME


President Ghani discusses growing Taliban threat with Time magazine from the Taliban and whether Afghan forces can hold back the insurgents without a significant surge in international troops told Time magazine about.


ashraf ghani

We can hold [them back], because, again, we need to see, 2015 [the year after the end of the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan] was a battle for survival. We did everything the Taliban, Pakistan and others were saying — we brought a massive reduction of security forces. But instead of coming to consensus over a political solution in Afghanistan, they accelerated the fight. So the Taliban and their backers have had two goals: one, to overthrow the government; second, to create two political geographies. They were able to take Kunduz momentarily. But except for that they have not been able to take a single major [provincial] capital.

TIME: But the Taliban are at the gates again

They are at the gates. We are not saying we are not in conflict — that would be illusionary. What I am saying is we are not about to collapse. We have been able both years [2015 and 2016] to contain immense onslaughts in a time when, because of Congressional sanctions against Russia, we had no airpower [with Western sanctions on Moscow preventing Afghanistan from securing spare parts for its aging Russian aircraft]. Our fleet? The only assistance that they could secure after knocking on the doors of over 50 countries was from India. Four helicopters that really were lifesavers. Now we expect ... should the plan be approved by President Trump, a major overhaul of the Afghan air force, a doubling of our special forces, a reorganization to the level of the company and the division, that enables us [to get going]. So [what] we have been doing in 2015 and 2016 that is an extremely rare phenomenon: fighting and reforming at the same time. And the jury is out. But it has not been not for lack of effort.