War & Peace

Ghani’s Speech to the Parliament: A hardening position on war, peace and Pakistan


President Ghani addresses both houses of parliament in an extraordinary joint session on 25 April 2016. Photo source: Tolo News.

President Ghani’s speech to the Afghan parliament, in an extraordinary joint session on 25 April 2016, was unprecedented. Made in response to demands that he clarify the government’s security policies, the televised speech was sober and dignified, and detailed the government’s hardening stance against Pakistan, the Haqqani network, Daesh and “parts of the Taleban.” Although, according to the president, the door to peace was still ajar, the speech’s main aim was to project an image of resolve and military dominance. It represented a further hardening of the rhetoric and was met by an equally harsh statement by the Taleban. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert takes a closer look (with input from Salima Ahmadi).

The context

It was the first time a post-2001 president called an extraordinary joint session of both houses of the Afghan parliament. (1) Yet, Ghani’s speech was also part of an ongoing conversation between the president and the legislative bodies, which have enjoyed uneasy relations even during the Karzai years. A week earlier, on 18 April 2016, President Ghani called both houses to a large closed-door session at the presidential palace to discuss and consult on the government’s security policies. The meeting, that took place in the presence of the acting Minister of Defence, the new Minister of Interior and the acting head of the National Directorate for Security (NDS), was described by MPs as cordial and constructive.

During the 18 April 2016 meeting, President Ghani asked the MPs to support the government now that the quadrilateral talks – involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China – had not brought Taleban to the negotiating table and the Taleban had launched their Omari Operation instead. Ghani warned that the nation would have six tough months of war and killing ahead of it and asked them to be united and support the security forces. The MPs, in turn, presented a list of ten demands or issues. (Some MPs said this was in response to the president’s request for a technical security plan, while other described the demands as a list of conditions if they were to support the government, as requested). In the subsequent days, the list grew and by the time the president made his speech, it contained 24 points, many not to do with security.

The president referred to the parliament’s conditions (“I received your list of 24 items”), saying he would address the most important ones in his speech and discuss the remaining in regular meetings with the parliament, that would take place monthly in the Palace from now on.

The demands/issues raised by the parliament include a shift in policy from negotiations to war; fundamental changes to the structure and policies of the High Peace Council; the introduction of the new minister of defence and head of NDS (currently filled by an acting minister and director) and the filling of other vacant governmental positions; a clear definition of the nation’s enemies and friends; presentation of the government’s five-year strategic plan to the Wolesi Jirga; the strengthening of the national security forces; a stronger stance against what they term Pakistan’s ‘double game’; electoral reforms; the parliamentary elections to be held on time; and the presentation of a concrete plan at the Warsaw summit.

Wolesi Jirga speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, at the beginning of the joint session, also mentioned the implementation of the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the US, an addressing of the problems of Afghan refugees and migrants in Saudi Arabia and European countries, the strengthening of good governance and the fulfillment of the promises made before and after the establishment of the NUG (see here for more detail).

The session was unusual, but it is not the first time the Afghan government has publicly sought to announce its stance in response to a major security incident. In October 2011, President Hamed Karzai addressed the nation in a televised speech to announce a ‘policy change’ after the assassination of High Peace Council head Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had been killed by a supposed Taleban peace envoy (current acting defence minister Massum Stanakzai, was badly injured in the attack). At that time, Karzai stated that the Afghan government would no longer seek to talk to the Taleban, but would address Pakistan directly instead, arguing that the Taleban did not appear to be in a position to take a decision with regard to peace. Ghani’s speech, now, was the exact opposite and may signal the end of a years-long strategy of demanding Pakistan ‘deliver’ the Taleban leadership.

But given that President Ghani’s speech was not just a reaction to recent events, but also a direct response to issues raised by the parliament, it should be read, not just as an address to the nation, but also as a direct attempt to forge greater unity between the executive and the legislative.

The speech

The president’s speech itself was sober and dignified. Alternating between Dari and Pashto, he made no jokes and displayed no sudden outbursts of emotion. Some of the more emotive sentences – in praise of the security forces, vilifying the Taleban or portraying a strong, bellicose stance – were met with polite rounds of applause. (The full official text in Dari/Pashto can be found here;  a link to a video of the full speech can he found here; and an English translation by BBC Monitoring can be found in the annex below.)

In terms of substance, the speech contained no big surprises. Most of the main themes had already been foreshadowed in comments to the media by the government leadership and their spokespersons. Emerging themes included praise of the Afghan security forces; a clearer ‘definition’ of the enemy; de-prioritisation of the peace process in favour of military operations; a loss of patience with Pakistan’s role; and continued assurances that the National Unity Government would keep its promises. It was, however, the nuance and detail that mattered.

In praise of the security forces

A large section of the early part of the president’s speech was spent in praise of the ANDSF (formerly known as the Afghan National Security Forces, the country’s security forces, under the new government, are now referred to as Afghan National Security and Defence Forces). President Ghani told his audience that the last 13 months had seen more than 40,000 combat missions and 16,000 resolute operations and that at that very moment more than 15,000 “brave troops” in seven provinces were fighting the Haqqani network, Taleban and Daesh. There was a bit of hyperbole when he praised the 50,000 families who had sent their sons and daughters to serve as soldiers over the last year, or the women who were cooking for the combat troops because they remember how they had been whipped [presumably by Taleban Vice and Virtue police] in the past. He listed a large number of units, departments and equipment (with special mention of the helicopters) that had been added to the security forces, based on their needs and experiences of last year.

The general image the president sought to project was that of a nation with security forces that had come to terms with their weaknesses and regained the initiative on the battlefield:

The combat capabilities of your [sic] young security and defence forces have been enhanced in a way that cannot be compared to the past … our Air Force has become so active it can reach the enemy in the country’s roughest terrains and mountainous areas … our army is becoming younger and stronger … reforms are ongoing.

He closed the speech with the wish that, “If God wills it, this year will turn into the last and final year of defeat for the terrorists and the bloodthirsty.”

A matter of definition

A second point the president dealt with in his speech was the prickly question of distinguishing friend from foe. The demand that the nation’s enemies be properly defined is a long-standing one, also often heard under President Karzai. The demand stems from criticism over the government’s confused stance vis-a-vis the Taleban, treating them as a party that needs to be wooed and appeased, even while they continue to launch vicious attacks. In the history of the country’s attempts to start a peace process, there has been a steady concern that concessions to the Taleban would be made before they were earned. Both Karzai and Ghani have been accused of being far too soft on the Taleban, with critics being fearful that in the haste to get something that looks like a peace deal, the Taleban would be allowed to join the government on their own terms and that chances for a more substantive peace negotiation would be squandered.

In his speech, Ghani started off his definitions by stating that all political groups who worked in favour of the national interests were “friends,” including the opposition: “Friends of Afghanistan are all Afghanistan’s citizens – including supporters of the state, those who are impartial and the political opposition with their different political perspectives and positions, who are nevertheless loyal to the national interests and protect and defend them.”

The enemies of Afghanistan were those, “who take advantage of the pure religious emotions of our youth, while they themselves are part of the drug mafia and are gathering wealth and luxury. The enemies of Afghanistan are the hireling groups like Daesh, al-Qaeda and the murderous groups of Haqqani and some Taleban who enjoy shedding the blood of their countrymen.” (emphasis added)

Ghani’s hedging with regard to the Taleban – defining only “some Taleban” as enemies – was explained in the next sentence: “The difference is that there is no way to talk with the foreigners’ hirelings, but we have still left the door of dialogue ajar for reconciliation with those groups of Taleban who are ready to work together for their country to put an end to the bloodshed and restore peace and stability – although this window of opportunity will not remain open for good.”

The reiteration that the door to peace is still open (to those who want to lay down their weapons, accept the constitution and distance themselves from terrorism, as state elsewhere) is much needed. But it is also so obvious – those surrendering will be allowed back – that it is unclear why Ghani felt his definition needed a caveat.

President Ghani also sought to frame the conflict as an “undeclared war,” claiming that he had reached consensus with the international partners that “this war is not a civil war, but a war waged by terrorists and their regional supporters against our country.” The Minister of Defence, while visiting Kunduz on 21 April 2016, referred to the conflict as an “imposed war,” stressing that the Afghan security forces would remain resilient against the conspiracies of the enemies of Afghanistan.

A stern talking to Pakistan

Although there had been commentary about the failed quadrilateral talks, the president’s comments were relatively circumspect – presumably in an attempt not to alienate the allies he still needs (the US and China). He said that the quadrilateral efforts, with all their difficulties, had “created appropriate conditions to better understand the rightfulness of the demands, of our people and our government, to seek a political solution.” He singled out Saudi Arabia and Iran as international partners and made a veiled, but unmistakable swipe at Pakistan: “Those who have failed to implement their commitments within this international framework or have been unwilling to implement them, are isolated more than ever today.”

A day earlier, presidential spokesman Dawa Khan Minapal had been a lot less guarded when discussing Afghanistan’s intentions to review its policy on Pakistan: “Pakistan is in a state of isolation. We want to use diplomatic initiatives to isolate Pakistan at the regional and international levels and to tell the world community where the terrorists are and which country and intelligence (agency) supports them.”

As widely reported, the president made it clear that he no longer expects Pakistan to bring the Taleban to the talks and instead called on Pakistan to either deal militarily with those Taleban who reside on Pakistani soil and refuse to accept the “political road” – based on its written commitment in the framework of the quadrilateral talks – or “surrender them to our sharia-based courts so they can be tried and punished for their actions.” President Ghani stressed that he, and the rest of the world, expected Pakistan to abandon the concept of ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’ and act as a responsible government. Failing to do so, Afghanistan would see no other option than to complain to the United Nations Security Council and other international bodies.

The US has recently also been increasing pressure on Pakistan. A US State Department spokesperson stressed on 22 April 2016 that Pakistan has been told at the highest level that the Taleban and Haqqani network had to be reined in:

We have consistently expressed our concerns at the highest level of the Government of Pakistan about their continued tolerance for Afghan Taliban groups such as the Haqqani Network operating from Pakistani soil. And we did again – after this week’s attack we have pressed the Government of Pakistan to follow up on its expressed commitment not to discriminate between terror groups regardless of their agenda or their affiliation by undertaking concrete action against the Haqqanis.

At about the same time as Ghani’s speech, reports surfaced in the Pakistani press that a delegation from the Taleban office in Doha had arrived in Islamabad and would possibly start face-to-face talks with the Afghan government on 27 April 2016. However, Taleban spokespersons either said they were unaware of the trip or denied the reports.

Pakistan, in the meantime, has yet to show any strong reaction to President Ghani’s speech. A Pakistani foreign affairs official, in a rather bland statement, said that Pakistan denounces terror in all forms, does not differentiate between terrorist groups and considers peace and stability in Afghanistan to be in the best interest of Pakistan.

Sartaj Aziz, the President’s advisor on foreign affairs, said in an interview that Pakistan would deal militarily with the “anti-talks Taleban,” but only after it had consulted with all sides.

A tougher stance on war and peace

In terms of a tougher stance on war and peace, Ghani’s speech was largely a reiteration of an earlier statement  issued on 21 April 2016, indicating that peace through negotiations with the Taleban was no longer a priority for the National Unity Government, as the insurgent group had shown no mercy on the Afghan people. While the stance in his latest speech was not new, the language of resolve when it came to punishing those who continued to choose war, was:

The enemies of Afghanistan should know that if they are caught on the battlefield while committing terrorist acts against the people of Afghanistan, they will be brought to justice and the rule of law will be fully implemented on them. … I will resolutely deal with those who shed the blood of our soldiers and our innocent people and I will not hesitate to punish them. The time for those who enjoyed unjustified amnesty is over. The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to resolutely implement decisions of the courts and judicial entities, including the rulings of death penalties.

The reference to capital punishment earned him the longest round of applause during the whole speech.

Echoing the same language, President Ghani told provincial NDS heads on the same day  (full palace statement in Dari here):

In the past eighteen months we exerted enough efforts to ensure peace, but they rejected it and last week in Kabul they martyred your colleagues and civilians. Therefore, they are rebels and criminals. Tighten the area around them, raise fear in their heart, block their passage routes, cut their financial resources, destroy their hidden places through air and ground operations and demolish them.

Of course, this tougher stance of the government will only signal actual change if the forces are indeed capable of holding their own and regaining the initiative.

The tougher stance could, incidentally, also usher in a period of increased tolerance for rights abuses on the battlefield and in detention centres – as already indicated, in UNAMA’s 2015 Protection of Civilians report, by the rising portion of civilian casualties caused by the ANDSF and the decision to use detention without trial.

Calls for unity

The speech, finally, was also laced with calls for unity. The president opened with a reference to last week’s meeting in the Palace, saying that “respected MPs had joined their voices with the government,” declaring their support for the government’s war and peace policies. He later spoke out against those who “tarnish this unity while they are within the system and the government, and who utilise the [government’s] resources to keep pouring water into the enemy’s watermill, and consciously or unconsciously, take part in the enemy’s psychological warfare; there will be no compromise regarding them anymore.” He asked the MPs and senators “to define this moral discipline and to enshrine it in law, so that in light of these principles, we can respond to the enemy’s psychological warfare more successfully.” The remark was vaguely phrased, but it sounded like the president was asking the parliament to lay down limitations to free speech and free reporting, along the lines of occasional requests to the media and commentators to refrain from reporting and debates that might threaten the nation’s morale or unity.

On the other hand, the president insisted that although the enemies had wanted to force the government to declare a state of emergency, “they did not know and do not know that Afghans are not a people to be intimidated and coerced. The Afghan soul does not accept coercion. We will never limit the freedoms that our Constitution has granted us.” The two seemingly contradictory statements seem an apt illustration of the competing drivers that the government faces. (Also, the government has already given itself an extra power – to detain without trial – by decree, rather than getting it after declaring a state of emergency, as laid out in the constitution.)

The president further briefly responded to the parliament’s demands for reforms, appointments and other National Unity Government promises still to be fulfilled, but his statements were largely vague reiterations of continued commitments. The two most practical points were a promise to introduce candidates for the ministry of defence and the NDS “in the coming days” (2) and an assurance that the elections “will be held as scheduled” – a position the government continues to repeat despite mounting evidence that the reform process is largely stalled and the elections, practically speaking, will need to be delayed again.

The president, at the same time, used the opportunity to request both houses of parliament to pass two new electoral decrees. An earlier set was voted down in December 2015 (more details here) and the electoral process is stalled until the status of the amended laws has been clarified (AAN dispatch forthcoming). The parliament is expected to discuss the decrees early next week and it is clear that the president hopes that a feeling of unity and urgency will encourage MPs to vote in the law’s favour.

The president’s speech was thus part framing exercise, part presentation of newly defined policy lines. It contained enough strong language to satisfy those who have long hoped for a clearer and more belligerent stance from the government on the Taleban. At the same time, however, it hard to ignore the fact that much of the rhetoric has not yet been backed up by actual significant change, for instance when it comes to the coherence of the security forces at the local level, or the government’s capacity to deal with corruption.

Responses

Responses to the president’s speech, then, were unsurprisingly mixed. Pajhwok ran a headline emphasising positive responses from Kabul residents (although they only quoted only one citizen who was positive, while another resident called the speech “symbolic”). In a second article, the same news agency cited opposition politicians who criticised the speech as containing “nothing new.”

Wahidullah Ghazikhel, the spokesman of the New National Front, led by former finance minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, was quoted as saying “The New National Front and the Afghan people had hoped the president would come up with a clear stance on the peace and war in Afghanistan, but there was nothing.” He called the president’s remarks “ambiguous” and “controversial.” The spokesperson of the Protection and Stability Council, which has Abdul Rabb Sayyaf as one of its leaders, also said the president’s remarks were not very different from his previous remarks, which had also not been able to resolve the current problems. He warned the government not to compromise on the constitution, national sovereignty, the territorial integrity of Afghanistan or the achievements of the past. Only Amrullah Saleh, former NDS head and leader of the Green Trend political group had something positive to say, welcoming the president’s commitment to executing Taleban.

The Taleban responded in kind to Ghani’s speech, with explicitly harsh and mocking rhetoric of their own, first in a sequence of tweets by their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed and later in a longer piece, that largely mirrored Ghani’s statements. They portrayed the Afghan government as servants to the Americans, comparing them with Shah Shuja and the various communist leaders and saying their fate would be the same. They added that a servant’s choice lay only in death or surrender and announced that this year would be the year of freedom for the whole country and of punishment of the ‘servants.’ The wording, chillingly, appeared to reflect an increased readiness to accept civilian casualties in Taleban bomb attacks in urban areas (compare also the rhetoric in the Taleban’s statement following the massive truck-bomb attack on 19 April 2016 which left more than 400 people killed or wounded). The hardening of positions in the immediate aftermath of the Pol-e Mahmud Khan attack thus seems to be escalating, at the very least in terms of rhetoric.

The implications

Ghani’s speech served several aims. The respectful and earnest address to both Houses was meant both as a rallying call and a basis for improved relations with the legislative. He undoubtedly hoped to ensure the parliament’s cooperation, for instance when voting on the electoral decrees and the government’s candidates for minister of defence and director of NDS.

The president’s messages – of resolve, success and commitment – were aimed at countering the image of a besieged and dysfunctional government that is being deceived and pushed around by Pakistan. The show of a fairly unified response by President Ghani and CEO Abdullah in the aftermath of the 19 April 2016 truck bombing prompted some commentators to wonder whether this could usher in a greater internal unity in the government in the face of mounting security challenges. That however remains to be seen. It is not difficult to be united in the face of such a vicious attack. The first real test will be now that the unity government, with its complicated system of appointments, tries to finalise the candidacies for the ministry of defence and NDS positions. Rumours that Abdullah boycotted the joint session of the houses of parliament, because he felt snubbed that he would not be given the same podium as the president, do not bode well. (3)

 

(1) According to article 104 of the constitution “Sessions of the two Houses shall be held jointly under the following circumstances: 1. When the legislative term or annual sessions are inaugurated by the President; 2. When deemed necessary by the President.”

(2) The Wolesi Jirga MPs had actually called for the introduction of these candidates before the president’s address; some MPs had even made it a condition for attending the session. In the end it seems only Latif Pedram boycotted the session, claiming that such a meeting where MPs are not allowed to respond or ask questions was a waste of time.

(3) A deputy Spokesperson to the CEO confirmed to AAN that Abdullah had cancelled at the very last moment because all the formalities were for the president and not for him. Also he was told to sit with his deputies and not with the president and the heads of both houses.

 

Annex: President Ghani’s speech to the Afghan houses of parliament, as broadcast live on state-owned National Afghanistan TV on 25 April 2016 (translated by BBC Monitoring)

In the name of Almighty Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful.

[President Ghani begins in Pashto] Your Excellences, [Speakers] Mr Ebrahimi, Mr Moslemyar, [Vice-President] Mr Danesh, Mr Chief Justice, respected Pir [Gilani], Mr Khalili [possibly former vice president], esteemed members of the cabinet, the nations’ representatives, members of the senate, journalists, countrymen! Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatolla-he Wa Barakau [greetings].

 [The president switches to Dari] In the past two weeks, our country has gone through some important political and military developments as been the victim of a horrifying terrorist incident. Despite all the efforts made by the people and our government to put an end to the fighting, the rebels of this era, with their foreign supporters, have beaten the drum of battle and insurgency and declared the genocide of our innocent people. But they are not aware that our brave security and defence forces are committed to finding them across the whole country and defending the lives and property of their people by suppressing them. The members of the two esteemed houses of the national council echoed the voice of the government at a meeting at ARG [presidential palace] last week and pledged full political support for the government and national security forces with regards to peace and fighting. Exactly just one day after this consensus, the wicked Taleban committed the most horrifying inhuman crime and left our innocent countrymen killed. I would like to use this opportunity to pray for all the martyred of this land and particularly the victims of the recent terrorist attack and wish a complete recovery for the injured.

 Dear countrymen! The incident in Kabul on Tuesday [massive car bomb] is not the first act by the criminals of this group. Their despicable killing of innocent people, their depriving people of freedom, are just part of their long history of slaughter and mercilessness. They enjoy shedding innocent people’s blood and tearing people’s bodies apart. But, regardless of their blood lust, there is a large number of genuine sons of the nation who rushed to the hospitals and donated millions of litres of their blood to their injured countrymen from across the whole country, demonstrating their unity and solidarity and expressing their loathing for this terrorist group. As you know, the world, including the Islamic countries, and especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Nations, the majority of Asian and European countries, the USA, China, Japan, Australia and Canada have also called this criminal act by terrorists unforgivable.

[President Ghani reverts to Pashto] Sisters and brothers! These criminals are not the seekers of knowledge [literal meaning of “Taleban” is seekers of knowledge]. They are rather rebels and militants who stood against the legitimate government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan [applause]. The real Taleban study in madrasahs. Those who murder people, who are the enemies of education and who destroy mosques have no right to call themselves “Taleban”. Based on the Holy Koran’s explicit instruction, we have the right to defend our people against rebels and militants and to punish them [applause]. This group is led by some of those enemies of our country in Peshawar and Quetta who shed the blood of their countrymen and enjoy destroying the people of Afghanistan. They feel no goodwill towards the people of Afghanistan. They have no respect for the demands and hopes of the people of Afghanistan. In the political arena, they have proved their ignorance and unworthiness. I call upon the religious scholars of Afghanistan to show to these fools and misdirected people what the right direction is.

Esteemed audience! The enemies of our people wanted to force the Afghan government to declare a state of emergency by spreading fear and brutality. But they did not know, and still do not know, that Afghans are not going to join in the unrest soon [applause] The Afghan soul does not accept unrest and we will never impose restrictions on the freedom that the constitution has given to us [applause].

[Dari] Esteemed members of parliament! I have received a list that contains 24 chapters, if I remember correctly. I will refer to part of this list which is of vital importance and I will leave the remaining part for some monthly meetings at the presidential palace in the future.

I have come to parliament today, to the highest tribune of Afghanistan, to share with you and the people that we used all our resources last year to put an end to violence through peaceful manners. We also tried our best to defend our people against the undeclared war and to continue strengthening our defensive and security forces relentlessly. We have also called for a consensus among our international partners that this is not an internal war, but rather a war launched by terrorists and their regional supporters against our country and our people to achieve their unlawful objectives. They will achieve this objective only through barbarity and terrorism.

We have stepped up efforts to put an end to the fighting through non-military means at the national, regional and international level. Meanwhile, we have also used our military channels against terrorist groups. In the last 13 months, the country’s brave security and defence forces have carried out more than 40,000 combat operations and over 16,000 resolute operations in various parts of the country. Currently, as I speak, the brave sons of this land are busy suppressing the terrorists of the Haqqani network, the Taleban and other terrorist groups in seven provinces, as part of 15 ongoing military operations.

The fighting ability of the national security and defence forces has been enhanced significantly compared with the past. Within less than a year, at least 50,000 of our patriotic families have sent their sons and daughters to join the ranks of our security forces. We thank our patriotic families and each and every mother and father who gave birth to such brave children. Our security forces were given a warm welcome all across the country. Some housewives in various parts of the country have even voluntarily provided food to our security forces while they were engaged in military operations. The modest women of this land still remember the oppression of these fools [from when the Taleban were in power] and will never tolerate this group [applause].

Based on the security requirements and in the light of the lessons learnt from previous years, we have established a military unit in Konduz and an army brigade in Badakhshan Provinces [applause]. We have also created a deputy command for special forces in order to enhance coordination among special security units. We are proud of the sacrifices made by this unit.

Among some of the units recently set up within our security forces are: the technical, weaponry and artillery section; the 777 special air force brigade; the coordinating centre for the Kabul Garrison command – led by the chief of army staff and we thank him; the regional hospital of the 215 army corps; directorates for technical affairs and operations and maintenance within the army corps and army brigades; the centre for evaluation of intelligence threats and the radio intelligence centre.

[Speaking in Pashto] Esteemed audience! Last year when we had a limited number of helicopters and planes, we began the renovation of the country’s air force and now our air force is active to the extent that they are able to launch air operations against our enemies in some of the mountainous regions such as Khostak and Kohestani [applause].

The military coordination centre that we established last year has become the most effective centre with regards to coordination and decisions. Our intelligence abilities in various areas have progressed substantially.

More than 80 generals of our country were retired after reaching pension age to make way for our youth and to inject more young blood into our army and make it more powerful. The reform process in this area is ongoing.

Today, our security and defence forces have the support of some Islamic countries, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Australia, Japan, Canada, India, NATO member states and other international partners. We are pleased to say that a consensus has been established among international donors to support our defence and security forces in the context of a five-year security plan [applause]. This plan will be finalized in the near future at the Warsaw Summit. Before that, we will discuss the plan with you at the palace. This consolidation is the result of the hard work of the National Security Council members and especially esteemed Mr Atmar and esteemed Mr Stanekzai. I thank them very much.

Esteemed MPs and senators! In the next few days, the national defence minister and the heads of the intelligence agency will be presented to you for a vote of confidence. I hope for your cooperation in this regard. This will fill the gap [applause] We will no longer continue with acting ministers. We echo your voice [applause].

Esteemed MPs and senators, we must stand against the Haqqani Network and other Taliban groups as they are serving foreign interests and have formed an alliance with international and regional terrorists and the drugs mafia and are seeking to return our people and country to the dark era of history. History testifies to the fact that whenever we have remained united, the strongest combat armies of the world have knelt down in front of us. In order to defend our religion, country and constitutional values, we must unanimously and practically demonstrate unity. There will be no compromises and we will take action against those who work in this system and government and who harm our national unity by exploiting its resources and knowingly or unknowingly joining the enemy’s psychological warfare. I request that you, the MPs and leaders of this country, introduce this moral discipline and incorporate it into a law, so that we can more successfully respond to the enemy’s psychological warfare. You requested an explanation for friend and foe from me at our meeting in the presidential palace a few days ago. Our friends are the citizens of this country, regardless of whether they support or do not support the system, the political opposition that has a different position and perspective, but is committed to the supreme national interests and protects and guards them as much as they can. However, our enemies are those who exploit the sacred religious emotions of our young people and are part of the drugs mafia and are making their fortune through this. The enemies of Afghanistan are the slaves of foreigners, such as Da’ish, Al-Qa’idah, the Haqqani Network, the Taliban and other savage groups which take pleasure in shedding the blood of their compatriots and continuing war and terrorism. Talks with the slaves of foreigners cannot be held. However, we have opened our doors for reconciliation talks with those Taliban who are willing to cooperate with their country in ending the bloodshed and restoring peace and stability. However, this is not an everlasting opportunity.

Esteemed nation and audience, our efforts to build an effective international mechanism to end war and bring about international consensus, in particular to meet the genuine demands of our people, have proven effective. Despite the problems, the mechanism of quadrilateral talks has prepared the ground for better recognition of the fact that the demands of our people and governance are genuine and that a political solution must be sought [to the current crises]. As a result of these efforts and an active diplomacy, we have extensive relations with our key international partners in the region and the world, including key Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, based on mutual trust. And those who have failed to honour their commitments within this international framework, who did not want to honour them, have been more isolated than ever before.

Pakistan promised to use military force against those Taliban elements who do not renounce violence and reconciliation [with the Afghan government]. Let me clarify this today – we are not expecting Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. We, however, call on Pakistanis to keep the promises they made in the quadrilateral agreement and carry out military operations against those who, according to our intelligence organizations, the intelligence organizations of our international partners and senior Pakistani officials, have centres inside Pakistan and whose leaders are residing inside Pakistan. We also call on Pakistan to hand over these criminals to our courts to be punished unless it is willing to launch an operation against them itself. Our relations with Pakistan are based on mutual obligations and rights. We and the world expect our neighbour, Pakistan, to drop the policy of “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” and to launch operations against them all, meaning that there is no good terrorist or bad terrorist because a terrorist is a terrorist. Pakistan’s government should act as a responsible government. There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism. And whoever believes in this will in the end themselves be harmed by the terrorists. Our people are expecting us to take the issue of sanctuaries, equipment and resources being provided to terrorist groups on Pakistan’s soil for use against Afghanistan to the UN and several other international institutions as well as international civil society, because this is against the UN charter and international conventions. No country should support terrorists against another country. We believe their expectation is genuine. Despite our efforts and desires to shape regional cooperation, we have no choice but to refer to the UN Security Council and take serious diplomatic steps unless [Pakistan] changes its policy. Furthermore, we will take steps to pursue criminals whose hands are stained with the blood of our people outside Afghanistan with the help of international institutions.

Esteemed MPs, senators, dear audience, sisters and brothers,

The government never halts its peace efforts, in view of the holy verse “peace lies in reconciliation”. However, we will pursue peace only through Afghan channels and the Afghan government will reach peace only with those who do not want war and violence, who accept Afghanistan’s constitution and who completely cut their ties with terrorists. However, I want to make it clear to everyone that if we want peace, it does not mean that criminals will walk freely and a blind eye will be turned to the acts of murderers. Our defence and security forces, who enjoy the backing of their nation, in particular of the religious scholars, have decided and devised a programme to destroy the centres of the Haqqani Network and its friends – militants, Da’ish, Al-Qa’idah and other savage groups and send these rebels to hell. The enemies of Afghanistan must realize that if they are caught during a combat operation or while conducting an act of terrorism against the people of Afghanistan, they will definitely be handed over to the law and will be punished according to the law. I assure our esteemed MPs, senators, elders and the pious people of Afghanistan that as the president and guard and protector of the rights and security of the people of Afghanistan, I will deal severely with those who shed the blood of our innocent people and soldiers and will show no mercy when punishing them. No-one will be pardoned anymore. The Afghan government is committed to executing the rulings of the courts and legal and judicial authorities strictly, including where it concerns capital punishment.

The execution of these orders with strong determination delivers a clear message: our justice system is strong enough to punish criminals and terrorists. But it is clear that our resolve to apply the law must conform to the constitutional injunctions, our commitment to human rights and just policies. You will see how those who have rejected our call for reconciliation will beg us to join the peace process after being defeated on the battlefield. Henceforth, we will achieve lasting and dignified peace through tough military action throughout the country.

Esteemed MPs, senators, sisters and brothers, all of our people stress the need for reform and a fundamental change. We are committed to honouring our promises in this regard. Reform of the electoral bodies has started and elections will be held on time. I request both houses of parliament to pass the [electoral] law submitted to them as soon as possible. One of the weak points in our government, which the enemy is exploiting, is corruption. The perpetrators have weakened the military capabilities of our defence and security forces and are serving the country’s enemies. We will mete out serious punishment through our courts to these perpetrators who commit treason. I request you all to support reforms and the elimination of corruption in every institution, in particular in the security sector, to completely depoliticize our security institutions. And those who exploit their positions should not be supported at all. We can secure victory over the enemy on the battlefield only by introducing reforms and creating cleaner institutions. I request you to support the government in achieving this goal.

In order to fight corruption, the legal and judicial system and the independence of the judiciary must be further strengthened. More attention must be paid to the protection of our esteemed judges and prosecutors against the perpetrators of organized crime. I should thank the lower house of parliament for giving a vote of confidence to Attorney-General Mr Hamidi and for preparing the ground for completion of the High Judicial Council. As part of the reforms in the judicial system, Mr Halim and his friends have transferred, replaced or appointed new judges over the past six months and have launched capacity building programmes for judges. The National Security Council will approve a new regulation for the formation of Afghanistan’s judicial and legal police. This will help judges and prosecutors to fulfil their duties confidently. I thank those judges and prosecutors who have issued death sentences to rebels and assure them that we will protect them. Moreover, the government is making efforts to improve the economic situation and create employment opportunities. The Brussels conference on Afghanistan will be held and will be attended by more than 70 countries and 20 international organizations who will announce their commitment to economic development and the promotion of good governance for the next five years.

Development projects which were launched last year will continue this year and the TAPI [gas pipeline project], the CASA-1000 [project for] electricity supply from Turkmenistan, the Aqina-Turkmenistan railway track and Herat-Khawaf [railway track] are among these projects.

Esteemed MPs and senators, I call on you once again to continue supporting your courageous and brave security and defence forces. Your political support will help our security and defence forces to fight the enemies of Afghanistan more confidently and, God willing, this year will see the last and final defeat of terrorists and murderers.

Long live Afghanistan,

Long live Afghanistan,

Long live Afghanistan.

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Thematic Category: War & Peace