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Peace an imperative, but no final breakthrough as yet with Taliban: Afghan Prez

Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Thursday said peace is imperative for his war-torn country but there is no breakthrough yet with respect to Taliban and withdrawal of US troops.

He also lashed out at Pakistan for supporting terror activities in Afghanistan and for failing to deliver on its promises. He added that Pakistan would continue to remain "a poor country" if it continues in the current form.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual summit here, Ghani said Pakistan should come out of its trauma of birth as that would be good for the entire South Asian region, including Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

While stressing that it is imperative that the war that has gone on for so many years must come to an end, he said that given the complexities it is difficult to arrive at a date when the conflict would end.

The Afghan President was responding to reports that some deal has been reached with Taliban for withdrawal of the US troops from the country.

He said there is a timeline in place for a breakthrough eventually and Afghanistan has to keep in mind its national, neighbourhood and regional dimensions as well as its cluster of relationships including with the US, Russia and India.

According to him, Taliban has had so many relationships under the surface, including with terrorists and non-terrorist groups, such as criminal drug mafia and some kind of relationship with Pakistan where they have had sanctuary.

Asserting that there is a need to stabilise Afghanistan, Ghani said the US is committed to see a timeline to the engagements, but to think a relationship has been arrived at is exaggerated.

"How do we deal with these relationships, we have a roadmap," he said.

The President said the US is entitled to leave but we need to get the departure right. "Are the fundamental reasons that brought the US to Afghanistan, are they completed?" he wondered.

"We completely agree that the cost should come down. Second the number of troops, we are engaged in a discussion to ensure the number matches the needs. On making it more efficient, this is crucial," Ghani noted.

When asked whether he gets worried that he would get a phone call saying Donald Trump has tweeted that the US was leaving tomorrow, Ghani said he has good relations with the US President.

"He says Afghanistan has changed its security branches root, stock and branch... now, the world's most powerful sovereign state has the right to disengage but we don't think it will. We've had this dialogue. The public panics when it thinks a scenario is a reality," Ghani said.

Asked about his expectations from the Imran Khan government in Pakistan, Ghani said, "We have talked over phone, but not met in person. We have got so many promises, but there have been cases that within days conflict has taken place... We want a relationship with Pakistan".

Noting that the proof is in the pudding, the Afghan President said, "We need to engage with Pakistan on the issue of terrorism."

"The Pakistan leadership needs to understand that their conduct has alienated them. If they continue in the current form, they will remain a very poor country but if they deliver and improve they can grow and move up the ladder," he said.

On Trump taking a strong position against Pakistan and whether he sees anything concrete happening because of that, Ghani said, "I do... this is pressure not for the pressure's sake but for the sake of engagement.

"I hope Pakistan realises it's good for the entire region (to disengage from terror groups). It would be good for everyone, good for Pakistan, good for India and good for us."

"Pakistan is a pivotal state in the region. We hope that Pakistani leadership would come out of the scars of its creation. Partition was painful. But for South Asia to become whole, they need to get over the trauma of the birth... We think the advantages of cooperation for Pakistan are immense."

On what was key to him having a good relationship with Trump, Ghani remarked that he does not talk much.

"One cannot dismiss the fundamental questions of a world leader. You need to be able to represent your country with dignity. You need to show that you care a lot more about your country than your foreign friends and partners.

"We have a very large range of American diplomats who I have got to know. As part of this modern leadership for one of the poorest countries on earth, we have to know the context," he said.

To a question on when the US looks back on its engagement in Afghanistan, can they take pride in it, Ghani said, "Of course. Firstly, there has been no repeat of 9/11. Democracy is not an overnight dose that you inject. Democracy building requires patience. I hope with this election it can show the investment made in us was worth it."

When asked whether the ISIS remains a real terrorist threat to the West, the president said it does.