Peace and stability top Afghan priority

Source: Published: 2014-6-12 21:38:01

Abdullah Abdullah

Editor's Note:

The year of 2014 is considered critical for Afghanistan, not only because the US will withdraw its troops from this land, but also because of the next president the country will elect. The election result on April 5 granted Abdullah Abdullah (Abdullah) 45 percent of the vote and his nearest rival Ashraf Ghani received 32 percent. The two will have a second round runoff vote on Saturday. How does the possible new president perceive Afghanistan's relations with the US? What measures will he take to ensure peace and stability in post-2014 Afghanistan? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen talked to Abdullah, who looks well placed as the future president.

GT: Given the fraud in past presidential elections, how important are fair elections for the legitimacy of the future administration?

The people of Afghanistan enthusiastically took part in the first round of the elections, despite a very difficult security environment and bad weather conditions. They reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan's democratic transition.

As we prepare for the second round of elections, it is important that the Independent Election Commission and Independent Electoral Complaints Commission ensure the process is transparent.

A credible electoral outcome is critically important for Afghanistan's political stability. It is necessary for ensuring the legitimacy of the future government.

GT: Current President Hamid Karzai has been refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US, and you have said it needs to be signed as soon as possible. If you win, do you plan to sign it right after taking office? How important is it to Afghanistan's future? And do you think the current Afghan National Security Forces can sustain themselves once the US makes a complete withdrawal?

Currently, our national revenue forms less than one-third of our national budget. The remainder of the budget comes from foreign aid, which is now very much tied to the BSA.

On the other hand, the threat of terrorism and extremism hasn't been addressed, and our national army and police are in need of continued support.

The BSA is therefore a matter of necessity. It enjoys the overwhelming support of our people. I plan on signing the BSA as one of the early acts of the presidency.

GT: The relations between Afghanistan and the US have been at their coolest point under President Karzai. How will you get along with the US if you win?

The US and the people of Afghanistan began a partnership in 2001 that led to the collapse of the Taliban regime. The US has provided essential support in a number of fields during the past 13 years. This has enabled improvements in the lives of our people.

I look forward to close and effective relations with the US. These relations will be based on the mutual interests of restoring peace and stability to Afghanistan and the defeat of terrorism.

At the same time, given our strategic location, we must, and will maintain close and constructive collaboration with other partners, including countries in the region. These countries also have an important role to play for Afghanistan's peace and stability.

GT: Some experts believe a regional security framework may help stabilize Afghanistan, while others think it is not feasible since stakeholders in the region have their own interests and concerns to hold back. Do you think a regional security framework is necessary?

Peace and stability in Afghanistan are in the interest of not only our country, but also our entire region. This includes Pakistan and India. The past several years have shown that terrorism and extremism are a common threat, posing a danger to all regional countries.

A number of initiatives at the regional level are already underway to foster genuine cooperation for addressing common concerns, and promoting stability.

As of now, the Istanbul Process is the most comprehensive initiative that brings together Afghanistan, and countries in our region, to make progress in various fields, including security, counter-narcotics, trade and transport, energy and education.

We will collaborate closely with all neighbors to determine what additional measures could be taken to achieve a peaceful and stable region.

GT: What approaches will you take to deal with the Taliban if you become the president? Under what condition could the Taliban be part of the government?

Ending the conflict and securing a just, dignified and lasting peace is the No.1 demand of the Afghan people.

Any success in achieving a lasting peace requires a strategy that is built on a national consensus, and one that is inclusive and enjoys the overwhelming support of the Afghan people.

We will work toward a situation in which the armed opposition sees no benefit in attacking the people.

The Taliban must consider themselves the citizens of our nation, who respect and abide by the constitution, instead of identifying themselves as an entity involved in the destruction of their homeland.

They must embrace our democratic process, human rights, particularly the rights of women. The role of Pakistan will be important in helping us improve security, and succeed in our peace efforts.

GT: How do you perceive China's role in Afghanistan in the post-2014 era?

China has provided support for Afghanistan's reconstruction during the past several years. China has investment projects, such as the copper mines in southern Afghanistan, and the oil fields in the north.

We expect China to remain a committed partner, and to provide continued support for Afghanistan in various sectors. The people of Afghanistan are grateful for China's contributions to Afghanistan.

China is a major player in the region, and can play an important role for Afghanistan's security and development.

I believe China can also play an important role in facilitating result-oriented cooperation in our region to addressing the threats of terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan.

GT: Chinese President Xi Jinping has raised the notion of Silk Road economic belt, and Afghanistan has supported the proposal. How relevant is it to Afghanistan's interests?

China's Silk Road economic belt offers an opportunity for economic connectivity among countries spanning Central Asia, and Southeast Asia to western Europe. This project can benefit all countries of the region from an economic standpoint. Naturally, we will have to study the details of the initiative to determine Afghanistan's role in it.

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