KABUL – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani set forth his three-step proposal for ending the decades-long conflict in his country ahead of this month’s peace conference in Turkey.
The first step, he said in a pre-recorded address broadcast Wednesday, should be a political agreement between his government and the Taliban, subject to ratification by a Loya Jirga (grand assembly), to be followed by an internationally monitored cease-fire.
As a second step, Ghani called for the formation of “a Peace Government” led by him within the framework of the current constitution.
“No one should think that Afghanistan’s leadership … your elected president, will resign or accept a shameful agreement,” he said.
He said that the Peace Government, which can include the Taliban, would oversee a transition to a new administration chosen through legitimate elections under the current constitution.
A free and fair election represents the only basis of legitimacy for a future government, the president said.
Once a new government takes office, the elected leaders and lawmakers will be free to amend the constitution, he said.
The ultimate goal, Ghani said, is “a just and lasting peace” in “an independent, democratic, united Afghanistan.”
The Taliban is engaged not in jihad, but in a “political war” to gain political power, the president said, vowing not to compromise on national defense in any peace deal.
Ghani stressed that while “an interruption” of functioning governance in Afghanistan would prompt at least a million Afghans to flee the country for Europe, a successful peace agreement would lead to the return of the 4 million expatriates currently living outside their homeland.
He called the upcoming conference in Turkey a “historic opportunity” to move on from 42 years of war to “a lasting and just peace.”
Ghani presented his proposal weeks after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a four-point peace plan in a letter to the president aimed at unblocking stalled intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar.
The president said that no peace plan put forward by a foreign government will be authoritative unless it is “completed and finalized” by the Afghan people.
Even so, Ghani announced that the US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will be in Kabul again next week to help prepare for the Turkey conference.