Sorry, what? Afghan president says time to apologize to Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghaniю (Reuters / Gary Cameron)
After 13 years of war aimed at rooting out the Taliban, the Afghan president declared in Washington that torture and mistreatment only intensified resentment in some members of the Taliban, so it's time to heal wounds and apologize.

Speaking during his first visit to Washington, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who became president last year, said peace with the insurgents was "essential" and that some Taliban members suffered legitimate grievances.

"People were falsely imprisoned, people were tortured. They were tortured in private homes or private prisons," he said, Reuters reported.

"How do you tell these people that you are sorry?" he lamented.

In a speech to the US Congress on Wednesday Ghani said that Taliban members could even find their way back into Afghan society, if they agreed to respect the constitution.

Reuters / Lucas Jackson

The Taliban "members" said earlier this week they had no alternative but to continue its fight against the US. They made the statement after President Barack Obama delayed withdrawal of the American troops until the end of 2015.

"Obama's announcement to continue to keep troops in Afghanistan is a response to the peace efforts," spokesman Zabihullah Mujaahid told AFP.

The US president was initially planning to cut the number of troops to 5,000 by the end of this year, withdrawing completely by the end of 2016. But - with the full backing of his Afghan counterpart - Obama decided to slow the withdrawal, leaving all 9,800 in place through 2015.

Why is there such unity and accord between Ghani and Obama? Former State Department official Matthew Hoh believes it's as easy as pie: both need each other for their "political survival."

"[Ghani’s] survival as president of Afghanistan is directly related to the mass of influx of American cash and Western money that his government receives, as well, as the presence of American soldiers to keep him in power," Hoh told RT.

The US president, meanwhile, needs Ghani because Obama is "facing a lot of difficulties due to his failed policy choices in the Middle East whether it be Libya, Yemen or going after the Islamic State… So he needs Ghani, he needs Afghanistan to show that he is still successful, that he hasn’t given up, that the US is still committed to fighting terrorism," Hoh says.

Such "commitment" - the Afghanistan war - has cost the US taxpayer nearly $1 trillion, according to Financial Times’ calculations, and will require spending several hundred billion dollars more after it officially ended in December.

READ MORE: Will they ever leave? US to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in 2015

US lawmakers, meanwhile, keep showing support for a slower drawdown of troops.

"Iraq has shown us the consequences of leaving a fragile ally too early," US Representative Mac Thornberry said in a statement. "The bottom line is that our own security is at stake," the Republican, who leads the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, added.

According to independent journalist Sergey Strokan, security is a myth. The RT contributor says the American operation in Afghanistan - the longest overseas conflict in American history - has eventually led to a paradoxical result. As never before the fate of Afghanistan currently lies more in the hands of external forces – regional powers and superpowers - than in the hands of the Afghans themselves, Strokan says.

"It is obvious that if the Americans complete their withdrawal, it will embolden Islamic militants in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, giving new steam to radical Islamic movements not only in these two countries, but also in the rest of Central Asia and even China, with the potential to create a major threat for the nearby former Soviet republics," Strokan maintains.

READ MORE: Pakistan Taliban splinter group pledges support to Islamic State

The other key factor which will hardly allow the Americans to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans is the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the journalist says.

"With the emergence of ISIS, the Middle East has turned into a testing ground for a destabilization model that will be exported to other regions. The Syrian or Iraqi ‘model of destabilization’ can be effectively applied in Afghanistan, with external forces playing a key role," he warns.

2014 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since the UN began compiling figures in 2009. A report published by the United Nations in February revealed 3,699 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2014, which is a rise of 730 from the previous year. Perhaps more worryingly, there has been an increase every year in the number of civilian deaths since 2009, figures from the UN report show.


A powerful blast rocked central Kabul on Wednesday. Security officials said at least six people were killed and 31 others injured. The suicide bombing occurred in front of the Finance Ministry and near the city’s 2nd Police Station.

Armed confrontations between militants and security forces in Afghanistan have also intensified in recent years, as the number of Taliban fighters has skyrocketed from 2,000 to up to 60,000, since the US-led invasion in 2001.

On top of that, a report by Human Rights Watch in early March said the US’s desire to have security at any cost actually gives Afghan authorities an opportunity to act with impunity, allowing them to get away with murder and torture.

“The previous Afghan government and the United States enabled powerful and abusive individuals and their forces to commit atrocities for too long without being held to account,” HRW’s deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said.