Afghanistan President Shares Views on Trump, Taliban Advances

Ashraf Ghani says that so far he’s happy with the Donald Trump administration.

“[I’ve found him to be] engaged, informed, and determined to see and hear,” the Afghanistan president told an Asia Society audience on Wednesday, referring to phone conversations the two leaders have had.

“But [talking to him] requires immense preparation,” he added. “If you want to keep him engaged, you’d better be informed and communicate everything significant in two minutes.”

In an onstage interview with Fareed Zakaria, Ghani also discussed the long-running war in his country and played down Taliban advances in recent months. “Has fighting has been hard? Absolutely,” he said. “But if you look at the fighting in 2015, 2016, and 2017, our armed forces today are in the best position they’ve been in years.”

Ghani said that recent Taliban attacks and bombings targeting civilians are a sign of weakness and have further alienated the general public. “The Taliban are becoming less and less popular,” he said. “The most unfortunate consequence of this is that now that the diplomatic environment has become feasible for peace, public attitudes toward peace might harden.”

“We need to engage our population in intense dialogue because the wounds are too fresh,” he added. “I have to take the long view, but how am I to explain [that] to a person who has lost a sister, a mother who has lost her child, a husband whose wife is blown to bits? The Taliban didn’t calculate that and their supporters need to advise them much better.”