Ghani Should Call Jirga to Ponder U.S. Withdrawal
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is both paranoid and isolated. He fears, rightly or otherwise, that a precipitous U.S. military withdrawal could unravel the collapse of Afghan state and instigate a chaotic civil war. He is also scared that Washington may opt for the setup of an interim administration for Afghanistan in order to facilitate the end of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan. This would clearly deny him a second term, Ghani calculates.
Ashraf Ghani is so confident of his victory in the upcoming presidential election that he wants a peace agreement with Taliban only after the July 2019 polling — first secure a five year term, then settlement with Taliban.
Mr. Ghani also appears very insulated and lonely domestically. All the major political figures and factions have increasingly rallied against him. Even the previously anti-Taliban heavyweights such as Ustad Atta and Gen. Dostum have accused Mr. Ghani of sabotaging the peace process. Many claim that Mr. Ghani tries to derail the Qatar talks purely out of personal interests.
Out of desperation, President Ghani sent a letter to President Trump beseeching for continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. In an apparent indication that he has no direct access to POTUS and even to Secretary Pompeo, Ghani handed his supplicant to the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, to take it to the White House.
It’s unlikely that Ghani’s letter will change Trump’s mindset of ending costly foreign wars and bringing troops home.
Ironically, Mr. Ghani claimed this week that the key to Afghan peace is in Afghanistan, yet he desperately seeks a solution in Washington. He’s wrong, sadly.
Instead of imploring to an indifferent Trump, Mr. Ghani should call a traditional Loya Jirga and seek a national consensus on what options should Afghans take in the case of an eventual U.S. withdrawal.
The Jirga should bring all political groups and factions, even the Taliban, and Mr. Ghani should standby the Jirga decision — even if it decides for an interim government.
If Mr. Ghani truly believes that the key to unlocking the current crisis is inside Afghanistan, he should go take the key from the Afghan people.