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Afghan President Asks for Patience in Search for Peace

Cossacks help a boy to take a bath in the icy waters of a lake during the celebration of the Epiphany holiday near the village of Leninskoe, some 15 km of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

“A fundamental change of this kind requires some patience,” Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday while talking about the prospects of peace and a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban.

Ghani said countries in the region have a history of interference in each other’s affairs and preying on weaker nations, because “South Central Asia did not have agreed upon rules of the game.”

Ghani said changing regional behavior will take time. He emphasized this type of change is necessary to deal with new threats that endanger everyone equally because violence does not recognize borders.

The countries in the region need “a different outlook, a different vision, a different set of cooperative arrangements,” the Afghan leader said.

The Afghan leader was speaking at a joint news conference with Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Ghani is facing strong criticism from supporters of former President Hamid Karzai for becoming too close to Afghanistan's eastern neighbor, Pakistan.


Karzai often accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for terrorists that carry out cross-border attacks and his supporters say Pakistan has not changed its behavior.

But Ghani defended his policies: “There’s been an undeclared state of hostilities for 13 years. This must end.”

Analysts say he has taken a calculated risk by changing the discourse on Pakistan. In return, Ghani expects Pakistan to use its influence with the Afghan Taliban to bring them to the table to negotiate peace. He also expects Pakistan to give up its support of the Afghan Taliban.

“Sovereign states that recognize each other, embassies that interact and that call each other friends do not destabilize each other, do not resort to non-state actors for achievement of destabilization,” Ghani said.

Pakistan insists it does not support any militant activity inside Afghanistan. Recently, it condemned the Taliban spring offensive and publicly asked the Afghan Taliban to talk to the Afghan government.

Afghan Taliban members attended a recent round of “open discussion” in Qatar on ways to find peace. This raised hopes in the region that a negotiated settlement may be reached between the warring factions.

The Afghan president sounded hopeful. “I hope that you’ll see progress,” he said.