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Afghanistan post-war: 'both opportunity and risk'
Ashraf Ghani, who heads the Commission overseeing the transition to Afghan-led security, speaks to Jim Middleton.

First, to Afghanistan and the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) summit in Chicago which formalised agreement that Afghan forces would take charge of security in their country by the middle of next year.

The gathering was also marked by a serious rift between the United States and Pakistan over re-activating supply routes into Afghanistan.

Questions also remain about the calibre of Afghan Security Forces and the will of the international community to underwrite Kabul's military budget after the pullout.

Ashraf Ghani is a former Afghan foreign minister and now heads the commission overseeing the transition to Afghan-led security.
JIM MIDDLETON: Ashraf Ghani, thanks very much for your time.


JIM MIDDLETON: In Chicago Barack Obama warned of hard days ahead in Afghanistan, a significant understatement I would have thought. It is going to be very difficult, is it not, to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan without significant NATO military presence beyond 2014.

ASHRAF GHANI: It's both an opportunity and a risk. The opportunity is that we will move from relying on use of force as the dominant instrument of change to a wider portfolio of instruments including diplomacy, economics, justice and rule of law.

The risk, of course, is that when you shift from overwhelming use of force to other types of instruments, then there are likely to be issues that arise from that. And given an unstable regional context where some actors claiming state privileges have simultaneously been relying very heavily on non-state type of behaviour, that we will have a hard set of challenges ahead of us.

JIM MIDDLETON: Politics, justice, economic development, the rule of law, they all require stability. How are the Afghan forces on their own going to be able to bring peace and security when tens of thousands of well equipped foreign forces have not been able to do that, also with billions and billions of dollars of money applied as well?

ASHRAF GHANI: Well part of it is that they've not failed over a decade.

I think one, the characterisation of this conflict as a 10-year-old conflict is false. In 2007 a real insurgency emerged in Southern Afghanistan but the Bush administration was totally preoccupied with Iraq. As Admiral Mullen then famously said, "We have to do what we are doing in Iraq. We will do what we can do in Afghanistan." It is only president Obama that made the commitment of forces and resources for a surge and now we're in the stage of the withdrawal of that surge.

But the use of that force in these years has created a platform for change in investment in the last four years and Afghan Security Forces has been unprecedented scale. And one thing is clear in the country, nobody wants to become a refugee again. And that brings about its own distinctive pressure regarding gelling together and being able to become stakeholders in stability.

When stability is offered to you on a platter, you take it for granted, but when you have to work for it, that means some very hard choices need to be made in order to bring stability and you become a stake holder in that process. That's the difference.

JIM MIDDLETON: Many of the countries which have promised to support your military budget beyond 2014 are facing significant pressures on their own budgets. Are you worried that many of them will fail to live up to their commitments?

ASHRAF GHANI: In the current fiscal and financial environment, translating a pledge to reality is going to be a challenge. But this is going to depend on the nature of partnership. And the valuable that's going to be extremely important is whether citizens of these countries see results from the expenditure of their money. It is not going to be easy, and the Afghan government would need continuously be able to demonstrate that it's putting the money to effective use and that the dividend from this is a more secure world.

JIM MIDDLETON: One specific set back in Chicago was the failure of the United States and Pakistan to agree on the reopening of supply routes into Afghanistan. How serious a blow is it that Washington and Islamabad are so seriously divided at the moment, especially given that, as you say, Afghanistan is an element in general regional stability?

ASHRAF GHANI: Well, the news that did not make - get out of Chicago, that I'd like to share with you, is how much the northern route is turned into a success.

North Afghanistan, for instance, announced it is investing $1 billion in infrastructure by 2014 to make a change. Azerbaijan announced a massive upgrading of its ports, railways and airports; so did Georgia, all the way to the Baltic. The news that should be realised, that is often not, is that northern route is becoming a real alternative.

Pakistan is a preferred route, but Pakistan needs to realise that it needs to be part of an agenda of peace and stability that everybody would like it. But they need to make the choices as to whether they're a partner in an agenda of stability that will benefit both them and us and the world, or that they're short sighted and will continue to keep making distinctions between their own brand of Taliban that they're fighting and have fought massively and ours that they feel can be used as a proxy.

JIM MIDDLETON: Ashraf Ghani, thank you very much indeed.

ASHRAF GHANI: Pleasure to be with you.
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