Thu, Oct

Ghani Dispels Rumors Of Ill Health, Discusses Issues of National Interest


President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday dispelled rumors of ill health and said "I am completely healthy" and that he works a 14-hour day.

Speaking to TOLOnews' Lotfullah Najafizada during an exclusive interview on Saturday at the Presidential Palace, he said he would be happy to publish his full medical report if it would quash rumors that he is in poor health.

However, the president did touch on the subject of his busy schedule, and said: "It is a working life [that of a president] and there is no place for a personal life here. The good thing is that today we have access to technology which enables us to be have direct contact with army corps across the provinces."

Despite being able to stay in contact with officials in far-flung areas, Ghani said he hopes that he will be able to travel to all provinces during his second year in office.

Asked whether the formation of the national unity government – something new for Afghanistan – had been a good option, Ghani said: "In the context of our national interests, it is a need that Afghanistan's political forces feel and be part of the play. We cannot do anything while being divided. Our nation during its 5,000-year history has proved that they had remained united and that they have done great jobs."

There is a need that we learn from the experience of the modern world in order to replace political disagreements with political solutions and prevent the use of weapons by one Afghan against another, he said.
He said: "The establishment of the National Unity Government has been interpreted as a political index of Afghanistan in the region and in the world and it is hoped that the nation will feel the results."

On the issue of unemployment and the economic downturn he said: "I was not selected to be a demagogue. I was selected to find solutions to Afghanistan's fundamental issues through political consensus and cooperation."

"We had to accomplish three fundamental transitions, definitely this would be problematic in any country. The first one is security, last year there was about 100,000 international forces stationed here with 450 contractors who were supplying them, and this had major economic impacts as well [when troops withdrew]," he said.

In addition, Ghani said that rumors that had existed on the possible collapse of the Afghan forces after 2014 were proven untrue and today the military is strong.

"We are dealing with security threats. It is an undeclared war [that had been] imposed on us. This war wasn't imposed yesterday, this was plotted by those who were plotting to bring down the government of Afghanistan or, God forbid, occupy half of Afghanistan, but Afghan forces proved that they will never surrender to this imposed war," he said.

On a positive note Ghani spoke of the improvements made in Afghanistan's banking system.

"The banking system in Afghanistan is on track to change. We will not face another banking crisis. I evaluate all banking operations of private banks on a monthly basis and discuss the outcomes of their banking operations so as to bring reforms," he said.

He also said government's assessments within the judicial system are being carried out and that he has met the judges from all 34 provinces.

Asked about the controversial issue of corruption, he said this was not something that could be sorted out overnight.

"The people believe that large scale corruption exists and has existed. It is not an issue to be resolved in one year. We are aware of the problem and focus on it systematically."

Security and the war in Afghanistan was also discussed but a steadfast Ghani said that government wants a peaceful settlement but without this they will fight "bullet with bullet".

"Those inflicting threats against Afghanistan's national security and [those who] take up arms against a legitimate government are in-fact the enemies of the Afghan security forces. This government proved that it believes all issues can be resolved through diplomacy and negotiations. But for those who kill our children and conduct explosions in the middle of the night, we will declare war on them. We will respond bullet with bullet," said.

"However the door of negotiations remain open," he added.

Asked about the issue of the reported death of the Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Omar, two years after the fact, Ghani said: "After the announcement of Mullah Omar's death, the Taliban has had to deal with a change in structure. They have been deceived. They [Taliban] took part in an imposed war for two years despite not having a leader. Now they must calculate their deeds in their conscience. Taliban must think about who issued the orders, for what purpose were these issued and for whose benefit were they issued."

Following this he spoke about the recently soured relations with Pakistan but was adamant that peace was the only solution but peace that preserves Afghanistan's sovereignty.

"We categorically discussed the problem with Pakistan last November. Pakistan however did not deny the problems that [Afghanistan has had] for almost thirteen years. It is an imposed war waged against Afghanistan from Pakistani soil and it still continues," he said.

Ghani went on to say, "the fundamental question is that first peace should be in place between the two governments in a sense that Afghanistan's freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity and any index outlined in our foreign policy, international laws and international conventions should be preserved."

Asked about whether there was a joint intelligence cooperation agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ghani said nothing to this effect had been signed.

"This is completely a false interpretation. The draft agreement was discussed at lower levels [of government] and was never evaluated as a plan at a higher level and it wasn't signed. You can see the draft agreement, it says that unless the ISI (Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence) and NDS (National Directorate of Security) chiefs sign it, the agreement will not be executed," he said.

On a serious note however he said that currently, as circumstances stand, there is little hope of building up the trust between the two spy agencies. "I want to make it clear that Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) never posed threats to Pakistan's stability, therefore we cannot put ISI and NDS in a single category. In the past ISI has been used as a tool of interference inside Afghanistan and the Afghan people can judge it," the president said.