President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday rejected any military parallels with the US wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan, dismissing concerns that his country would face imminent collapse after American forces are withdrawn.
Ghani said it was time Afghanistan won back its sovereignty after 20 years of American and international presence.
“In the past two years, Afghan defense and security forces have been carrying out over 90 percent of the operations,” he told CNN. “The risks were taken 20 years ago by the US and international forces.”
US President Joe Biden said last week that all 2,500 American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11 this year.
The US-led invasion of Afghanistan started in October 2001 after Al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks on America. The invasion in pursuit of Al Qaeda’s leadership toppled the hardline Taliban regime, which has waged an insurgency ever since.
Between 2003 and 2014, Nato-led mission that conducted security operations and helped to build up the Afghan security forces.
At the end of 2014, Afghan forces assumed full security responsibility, while Nato agreed to remain in a new, non-combat capacity to train and develop troops.
Ghani said thousands of Afghan soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against the Taliban. “Now we have 40,000-strong forces and it’s high time we won back our sovereignty and start a new partnership with the Americans and international community,” he said. “We are shifting from a predominantly military partnership to a partnership based on humanitarian and economic co-operation.”
Ghani is an economist turned politician who was first elected in 2014 and was re-elected in 2019.
The US involvement in Afghanistan has drawn many comparisons with the Vietnam War.
The US sent troops into Vietnam in 1965 and withdrew 10 years later, after losing about 47,000 of its personnel. A total of 2,312 US military personnel died in Afghanistan since the 2011 invasion, the Pentagon said.
At one point, the Nato mission in Afghanistan was one of the largest coalitions in history, with more than 130,000 troops from 50 Nato and partner nations.
“We aren’t Vietnam and I reject all these false analogies that Afghanistan is another Vietnam,” Ghani said.
“The US was not in Afghanistan for a big power competition. The region needs to wake up to this reality and Afghanistan will seek to be a permanently neutral country and won’t be a battleground for proxy wars,” Afghan President concluded.