In an exclusive interview with DW, former World Bank adviser and Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai talks about his country's economy, the Taliban, and the pending bilateral security deal with the US.
DW: If elected as the next Afghan president, would you be different from the incumbent President Hamid Karzai and if so, how?
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai: Things would definitely be different under my presidency. Firstly, I would enforce the constitution and establish a system of accountability for government officials. Secondly, I would change the presidential office into a policy-making body. I would also focus on good governance in education, health and many other government sectors. My administration would allocate 40 percent of the central government budget to provinces and would support mechanisms to enable people to monitor the actions of the legislators.
Would you sign the pending Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States?
I was part of the Afghan team which was negotiating the BSA with the US. I believe the agreement ensures Afghanistan's sovereignty. For the first time, the agreement will give Afghanistan the right to make decisions about the "legal use of force" by foreign forces inside Afghanistan. This agreement will also give Afghanistan full control over its air sovereignty. Therefore, I would sign the pact.
Peace, stability and national sovereignty would remain our focus, but these would not be preconditions to signing the agreement. They would be common goals which we would pursue together [with the USA].
How would you deal with the Taliban?
We believe in an unfailing peace, therefore, we need to curb terrorism. The Taliban have to make it clear whether they want to lay down weapons or not. We believe that we have to make concessions at all levels if we want to achieve lasting peace. We would try to involve religious and tribal leaders, and civil society organizations in the peace process. If I get elected, my government will promote a culture of acceptance and non-violence in the country.
What is the biggest challenge your country is facing at the moment?
Everything is inextricably linked and is part of a vicious circle. We believe that good governance can lead Afghanistan to prosperity and will break the cycle of violence. Governance is an area where we can bring immediate improvements because corruption has ruined Afghanistan. It threatens the very political foundation of our country.
What is your plan to improve Afghanistan's economy?
Our economic program focuses on replacing Afghanistan's economy with a productive economy. We can cultivate more agricultural area and manage our waters in a better way, which will create jobs for at least one million people. Afghanistan has the capacity to become an industrialized country because of its mining and agriculture sectors. We can also create jobs for educated men and women by investing in information technology. The transport sector is also vital for our economy. Afghanistan's geographical location gives it the opportunity to become one of the biggest transit routes in the region. It can connect Southern, Eastern and Central Asia to the Middle East.
What foreign policy would you pursue in order to avoid conflict of interests with Afghanistan's neighboring countries?
Afghanistan's foreign relations don't only focus on ties with its neighboring countries. The Islamic bloc, the West, Asia, and international aid organizations and private investors - all are important for us. Balancing our relations with all these groups would be at the core of our foreign policy. Middle Eastern Muslim countries are not only important for Afghanistan due to common culture and faith, but also because of economic benefits. These countries have tremendous financial resources which Afghanistan can make use of.
In the next 25 years, Asia will be an economic giant, and Afghanistan can be at the heart of this transformation. With the help of China's new policy that is supportive of its neighboring economies, and with greater access to India's booming market, Afghanistan can definitely attain prosperity.
The interview was conducted by Parwana Alizada.