KABUL (Dispatches) – Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday no peace deal between the Taliban and the United States could be finalized without involving his government as "the decision-maker”.
Ghani’s government has so far been shut out of the evolving talks between Taliban negotiators and U.S. envoys to end more than 17 years of war, with the militant group branding his government a U.S. puppet.
He made his remarks in a television interview as Afghan opposition politicians, including his predecessor Hamid Karzai, met Taliban representatives in Moscow.
"At the end of any peace deal, the decision-maker will be the government of Afghanistan,” Ghani told TOLO News, the country’s largest private television station.
"No power in the country can dissolve the government,” said Ghani, who added he was ready to "stand and defend our country”.
"Rest assured that no one can push us aside,” he said.
With both sides hailing progress in talks in Qatar last month, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is due to meet Taliban representatives there again on Feb. 25.
Ghani’s comments were some of the most extensive since he met Khalilzad in Kabul last week after the latest round of talks.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump told Americans on Tuesday his administration had accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan, and would be able to reduce U.S. troops there as negotiations advance to end America’s longest war.
"Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump said in his annual State of the Union address to Congress, in which he also claimed U.S. troops had nearly defeated Daesh terrorists in Syria and it was time to bring them home.
After 17 years of war in Afghanistan, Trump praised "the unmatched valor” of U.S. forces.
He said his administration was holding talks with a number of groups, including the Taliban.
Taliban representatives take part in the second round of multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan, in the Russian capital of Moscow, on November 9, 2018.