Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made most of his foreign trips to the United Arab Emirates after assuming office as president in 2014.
A report by TOLOnews shows that Ghani made eight trips to the UAE where he was accompanied by his security chiefs, among them the National Security Advisor, the head of National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Abdul Salam Rahimi, his former chief of staff and the current state minister on peace affairs.
The Presidential Palace confirms that Ghani made seven trips to the UAE and claims that these trips were aimed to further boost economic and political cooperation between the two countries.
Ghani made his first trip to the UAE on January 13, 2015, only four months after he became president.
According to the Palace, during the first trip to the UAE Ghani met with Afghan businessmen and signed agreements with the UAE on political, security, economic, cultural cooperation including agreements on boosting governance and rule of law. During his first trip to the UAE, Ghani was accompanied by the then National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar and the then president’s chief of Staff Abdul Salam Rahimi.
Five months after his first trip, Ghani made his second trip to the UAE on June 10, 2015, which the government says was aimed at expanding economic cooperation between the two countries and attracting UAE investments on water resources and the agricultural sector in Afghanistan.
According to the report, Ghani made his third trip to the UAE on June 2, 2015, to participate in the International Conference Cultural Heritage in Crisis. On the sidelines of the conference, Ghani also met with the business community and investors in the UAE.
Ghani made his fourth trip to the UAE only two months after his third trip. During the trip, Ghani was accompanied by his former National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar and the then head of the NDS Masoom Stanekzai as well as the then chief of staff of the president Abdul Salam Rahimi and presidential advisor Ajmal Ghani. During the trip, Ghani held discussions with the top UAE leaders on enhancing security cooperation between the two countries.
“There is a possibility that the trips were made as part of some secretive discussions, but it is certain that these trips brought nothing for Afghanistan,” said Sayed Eshaq Gailani, head of Nahzat-e-Hambastagi Afghanistan party.
Ghani made his fifth trip to the UAE on November 9, 2017, ten months after his fourth trip. During the trip, Ghani offered his condolences to the families of UAE diplomats who were killed in Kandahar and met with Afghan businessmen. Ghani was accompanied by former National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar and Abdul Salam Rahimi.
“We need to have very close relations with the UAE to enhance our business ties and to find markets for our products,” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani made his sixth trip to the UAE on March 17, 2017, where he signed six agreements on culture, education, sports, mines, energy and agriculture. During the trip, Ghani met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.
According to the presidential palace, the president made his seventh trip to the UAE nine months after his sixth trip on November 21, 2019, and held talks with the UAE officials on bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Ghani made his eighth trip to the UAE on February 8 to attend the 10th Session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi. During the trip, he was accompanied by State Minister on Peace Affairs Abdul Salam Rahimi and National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib. But no other leaders attended the conference.
This comes after November 30, 2018, when the UAE hosted a formal meeting between a representative of the Taliban and the US on the Afghan peace process.
Although the UAE was one of the governments that officially recognized the Taliban, the relations between the UAE and the Taliban have faced challenges following the killing of UAE diplomats in Kandahar city on January 10, 2017.
During the NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Brussels in 2017, UAE showed readiness to send its military personnel to Afghanistan if needed.