one—on—one meeting in singapore. mr trump says that the world will know soon enough whether a real deal between the us and north korea can happen. there's been a rock star reception for kim jong—un. he was greeted by cheers on a tour of the tourist sites, and said hoped he could learn from the country. spain has said it will take in a ship that has been stuck in the mediterranean, with hundreds of migrants aboard. the aquarius stopped its engines for more than a day, while italy and malta argued about where it should go. the german government has ordered car maker daimler to recall more than 200,000 vehicles in germany after they were found to be fitted with emissions—cheating software. across europe, nearly 800,000 vehicles are thought to be affected. now on bbc news it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur.
the afghan president ashraf ghani has ordered an unconditional ceasefire in the army's military campaign against the taliban. but afghans can be forgiven for being sceptical. the pause is forjust two weeks. the taliban has given no sign it will respond in kind. and the broader security economic and political condition of the country remains parlous. my guest is abdullah abdullah, chief executive officer of the afghan unity government. do he and president ghani have a coherent plan for rescuing afghanistan? abdullah abdullah, welcome to hardtalk.
thank you. let's start with this declaration of a ceasefire from your government, unconditional for the first time, albeit lasting only for roughly two weeks. what does it mean? a few days ago, in a conference of afghanistan ulamas, or clerics, they requested the government of afghanistan, as well as the taliban, to announce ceasefire throughout the last days, the last week of ramadan. and also during the eid period. and the announcement by the president is a response to that call. of course, that very conference you're talking about with the scholars and the academics, was attacked by a suicide bombing. u nfortu nately, yes.
that, i suppose, was some sort of signal as far as the militants are concerned, including the taliban, there appears to be absolutely no interest in responding in kind. so, the question is what happens? what happens if the taliban launch a major attack on kabul or another population centre during this supposed unconditional ceasefire? there is no doubt that unfortunately taliban have shown their lack of respect for human lives and the conditions in the country. and also the calls made by the clerics or the people of afghanistan or the international community. at the same time we do have a responsibility as the government of afghanistan to search every avenue io see if there is a chance for our people to live in peace and calm, even if it is for a few days. i'm interested in the degree to which you and ashraf ghani coordination on this. did he discuss it with you before making the announcement?
absolutely. i was in kabul at that time. and you were supportive? yes. the idea was that this is the call by the ulamas of afghanistan. with respect to the ulamas of afghanistan, they're not running the security strategy of the government. some generals and some respected commentators in afghanistan have already said this is a mistake, it'lljust allow the taliban to regroup, to restrengthen their forces on the ground, and it will do nothing to help the struggle that we see every day in your country. when that call was made, the idea was to hold the national security council meeting and to see different aspects of it. and my initial response was positive. at the same time i suggested that... it has to be made clear that it's not with other terrorist groups, only the taliban. no, i understand that.
it's obviously about your relationship with the taliban. and if our forces come under attack they will respond. they will? absolutely, that's clear in that. i'm glad we straightened that out. so, as you say, it's targeted at the taliban. it seems indicative of a of a strategy that ashraf ghani and his government is pushing to draw the taliban into direct political negotiations. we had that major development at the end of february, beginning of march, after the so—called kabul process, where the president came out and he talked about recognizing the taliban as a legitimate political movement in the country, saying that he wanted to see talks begin with them. you have always seemed much more sceptical. so where do you stand on that today? rather than being sceptical, i want to be realistic. at the same time, i am a supporter of the calls for talks. forgive me for interrupting but it's important
to get this straight. you said not long ago that you see no alternative to fighting the taliban and you don't believe that their interest or discussion about negotiation is serious. have you changed your mind? no. the taliban have not shown seriousness while we have been right from the beginning. so you still see no alternative to fighting? i believe that while at the moment in taliban have rejected calls for peace, talks, serious negotiations, we have no choice but to defend our own county and to protect our people. at the same time the door should always remain open for talks and negotiations. but you're telling me something that i genuinely don't know — if you're telling me that the taliban have entirely rejected a call from him, you will know better than i that a senior us general testifying in washington just a few days ago, generaljohn nicholson, said and i'm quoting his words directly, "there are offstage intensified talks going
on between mid and senior level taliban people and government officials in kabul about how to end the conflict." is that true? those... i would rather call them contacts rather than talks and negotiations. there have been contacts throughout in the past 17 years. the position of the government of afghanistan previous administration and also national unity has been that we should be prepared for the talks. the taliban have appeared on one or two... are these offstage intensified talks that the us general talked about, are they still taking place? currently, today, yesterday, the day before yesterday? no. we will going to see what will be the response from the taliban about the ceasefire. if there is to be more than just talk for talks sake but if there is to be a realistic process leading somewhere
with the taliban then you have to consider whether you're prepared to make concessions on the taliban's two key points — one is complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from your territory, and two — they want to see sharia law imposed across your nation. now, are you prepared to talk to them and consider compromises on those principles? based on those two basic demands or fundamental demands of taliban, they have raised those during our contacts. 0ur point is to go to the negotiating table and talk about it. the foreign troops... no point talking for talking's sake. are you saying, yes, on those two pillars of taliban policy, there is ground we can give? why are the international troops there? because the taliban are fighting against the government of afghanistan. it's because they had harboured
terrorist groups in networks there. if they give up fighting and violence and sever their links with terrorist groups and then come to the negotiating table and talk about the international troops withdrawal, i don't think that would be an obstacle. at the same time... with respect, why would they do that when donald trump, going back to last august when he ramped up the numbers of us troops in afghanistan to some 15,500, they heard donald trump say, and i quote directly, "we are not into nation building again, we are nowjust killing terrorists." and in the end, he said, we will win. so donald trump's message to the taliban is we, the american forces, are only interested in winning a military victory and destroying you. so, that doesn't seem to fit with your notion that we can talk to the taliban about drawing them into a process when your allies, the americans, and you have 15,000 of them on your territory, say they're simply going to eliminate
the taliban. that's one sentence out of the whole context of the south asia policy. you mean of the americans? yes, the trump administration. you mean we shouldn't take trump seriously when he said that? i didn't say that. my point was that the south asia policy is a broad policy. afghanistan government, the national unity government, has welcomed it. part of this is to keep the presence of the american troops in afghanistan condition—based rather than time—bound. the announcement of the withdrawal of their troops by 2014 made in 2012, i had the same view then, i have the same view now — it was counterproductive. taliban were encouraged, taliban thought that between 2012 and 2014 they will avoid engagement
with the international troops and they will come back full force and capture afghanistan. the truth is even today, the americans have ramped up their forces, the taliban militarily is scoring major victories. both the us and independent analysis of your territories suggest that at least 40% of afghanistan today is either "contested territory" or is actually controlled by the taliban. and your forces are smaller and weaker today than they were three years ago. i don't agree with the analysis, whichever it comes from. some of that actually comes from the us survey group which actually the government of the united states gives the task of analysing what's happening on the ground in afghanistan. the picture... a few years back, six years back, five years back, there were 150,000 us and international troops in afg hanist.
they were having the full combat role. with it came the equipment power, firepower, intelligence, reconnaissance, everything, air transport, everything that you can imagine. and then there was a steep withdrawal. by 2014, only over 10000 international troops were left. so the fighting is then today by our forces, of course with a cost, with a high number of casualties. but the point is we see the suicide, as already referred to one as the other day the conference of islamic scholars, we seenjournalists being killed. we see civilians in notjust kabul but other towns and cities being killed. we see afghan army and police forces, which have suffered a 10% decline in numbers, according to the us watchdog group that works for the us government. all of this together suggests the afghan civilian population lives
in greater insecurity today than pretty much ever before. there are evidences, there are incidents in terrorist activities increased. like, a few years ago daesh was nonexistent. we didn't know there would be a phenomena like daesh. now in one part of the country at least, one or two parts, daesh... but my my point is that the insecurity is nationwide. it's having a grave effect on for example the numbers of children who are able to go to school. we see thatjust one in three girls is currently attending school in afghanistan. it's the biggest drop in the number of school attendees since the taliban were removed from power 16 years ago. look at the poverty rate, which is on the rise. hunger is on the rise. all of this connected to profound insecurity across your country. let me share my own perspective.
i agree with some of the numbers but not with all of them. the point is that when you have nato allies fully equipped and trained having the combat role, that's one sort of situation. and when you have the forces which are trained by nato but not equipped in the same way, not supported by the same air power, you have a different security context. but this is the ceo of the country saying, "we can't cope." we have coped. i have just gone through the figures which you say you don't really quarrel with showing you're not coping. the point is that... lots of analysts and politicians, even in our partner countries, they feared, or they were concerned,
that post withdrawal date — 2014 — afghanistan would collapse and taliban will take over. that was the hope from the taliban as well. the taliban hasn't taken over. well, it has in some areas. but the point is the country is stuck in this limbo where you can't impose your control and authority. neither can the taliban. the war is clearly not winnable by either side. it begs the question, what on earth are you going to do to change a situation which for the afghan people means unlimited suffering? the suffering of the people of afghanistan unortunately now has continued for 40 years, over 40 years. under different circumstances. what is our mandate and what is our responsibility today? to make our best efforts to protect our citizens.
0ur military security forces are much better trained today than they were a few years back. our special forces are doing a good job. with it comes, of course, casualties in our forces which, as i mentioned earlier, the number of casualties is high. there is a security sector reform plan. part of it is doubling the size of our special forces and command forces and support for our air power. these are the shortcomings of our forces which has to be addressed. at the same time, there is a political process which, unfortunately, because taliban have rejected it, is not getting anywhere. but at the same time we are making that call. you can blame the taliban of course and the afghan people can make their own judgments about that. they can also make judgments about the failings of your government. you and ashraf ghani have had this rather strange sort of co—operative national unity government deal
in place for the best part of four years. now, i've just looked at the record on, you know, important gauges of how much governance has improved during those four years and, frankly, it's really depressing. corruption, for example, transparency international has you pretty much at the bottom of the entire global league table of corrupt countries today. you've been in powerfor the last four years as ceo of the country. let me talk a little bit more about the security and military situation. just one or two sentences. we don't have that much time, and you've made your points about the security situation. there is so much more pressure on the security forces. i also pointed out that you've actually overall suffered a reduction of numbers in your security forces, so that does raise questions about the degree that you're following through on the commitment to improve your forces. but i do think we've got to get to this point about corruption,
because afghan people, they are crying out for decent governance. and you're not providing. two points in that respect. it is a challenge and we are dealing with it. we have dealt with it in the past four years. it wasn't that we inherited a corrupt—free system or administration and then we initiated that. certain reforms that have been carried out, certain people have been prosecuted — senior level people in the army as well as in the civilian side. the reform of thejudiciary and the prosecutor general‘s office. 0pium production has actually increased last year. the new york times ran a special investigation showing that officials, notjust taliban people, but officials are now intimately involved in all stages of the poppy and opium production cycle. as insecurity increased in parts of the country, if you look at the map,
it's only taking place in the areas which are under taliban control. it is rarely in the areas which is which is directly in control of the government of afghanistan. but that's not a problem just for afghanistan. look at the consumption part of it. look at the transit countries — the countries which are blaming afghanistan for this. the precursors are going through are coming through their own territory into our territory and then we get the blame. yes, we have a responsibility to deal with it. but these are other realities around it. let's look forward a little bit. you, in 2014, were furious because you claimed that your... what you saw as a victory in the presidential election had been robbed, you'd been robbed of it by systematic rigging. now, elections are coming around again. parliamentary elections are supposed to be in october this year.
a presidential election next year. and there is a big drive to register voters in a way that will be deemed free and fair. are you confident that that registration effort will work? this was one of the basic and fundamental recommendations made by all those who had monitored the elections in afghanistan. that voters list, providing the voters list — pinned to the polling centres. that's one of the key reform measures to prevent... simple question, are you confident the government will deliver a free and fair system in time for the elections in october? it's the responsibility of the commission. our responsibility is not to interfere, not to use our influence over the elections... but with respect, that's why i'm asking, because there is a new electronic id system which is going to be an important part of the process of voting. everybody is supposed to get one of these new electronic ids. the president, ashraf ghani, has backed it. in fact, he's made a point of saying, i've got one of these new cards myself.
you have called these new id cards illegitimate. why did you do that? if you're talking about the elections, let me clear one point. this electonic id was not meant to be for the upcoming elections, not even for the presidential elections, and we are not sure if it will be carried out in the coming five years. the reason that i expressed my reservations about it — it became a controversial issue, a divisive issue. my point was... simply along ethnic lines. yes, and... you have a very strong base in the tajik community. it seems to many afghans that you are exp... you are playing politics with this and deepening the divisions in afghan society. i'm sure that the research done in that respect is not based on facts. my point is very clear and simple. it's the issue of national identity of every citizen of this country. if we start in a situation that part of the population are saying that we have reservations about it, some ethnic groups — small or big... i mean, many people watching
won't know, but the electronic id describes the national identity as afghan. now, tajiks in your country, they don't like to be described as afghan, because they see that as akin to being described as pashtoon. they don't like this notion that "we're all afghan in our identity." do you see yourself as afghan? absolutely. in the same day... so what do you say to those tajiks who say "we will never accept this. "we will do everything in our power to thwart this"? my point is not about that just one word. my point is about the fact it is a divisive issue. it was not any sort of immediate priority for us. we should have solved the issues around it, we should have come to a sort of consensus and went ahead with it... and you haven't.
and it muddies the waters in this upcoming electoral season. and i just want to be clear about one thing — are you going to run for president in 2019? i haven't decided. when will you decide? it will come. and in the meantime, the international crisis group says political partisanship has permeated every level of government, the security apparatus is being undermined. it is a terrible indictment of the way that this government, supposed national unity government, is working today. the national unity government was formed under different circumstances. very difficult circumstances. the alternative for national unity would have been absolute chaos and instability in the country, which we prevented that from taking place. has the unity government performed in the best way possible? the answer is of course no. and the indictment that it hasn't done anything for its people or its citizens is unfair.
right now, the challenges look impossible for this national unity government to overcome. we don't call any challenge impossible. the most important thing is that we have to make the right efforts and don't miss opportunities any more. we have to end there. abdullah abdullah, thank you very much. thank you. much appreciated. hello there.
for many days, even weeks now, our weather has been stuck in a rut. long spells of warm sunshine and just the odd thunderstorm. but at long last, things are changing. you may not like the change, because, firstly, we're bringing some cooler air in from the north. and then from the atlantic, through the middle of the week, there is an active frontal system bringing wet and windy weather, especially across the north. that will be a bit of a shock to the system. the changes are already under way. some cooler conditions for the day ahead. quite a lot of cloud around as well. that cloud will break up through the day with spells of sunshine. the best of these likely to be found in parts of wales in the south—west. equally, the odd scattered shower. temperatures down on where they have been. highs of 15—21. no more mid—20s. tuesday night, a mixture of clear skies and patchy cloud. it should stay just about dry.
a relatively cool night. temperatures in a few places will get down into single figures. wednesday, we start on a fine note. frontal systems approaching from the north—west. more on that in a moment. starting wednesday with high pressure across the british isles. not a bad start to the day. good spells of sunshine to be had. perhaps just the odd shower breaking out as cloud builds up in the day. the north—west, quite a significant change. rain into northern ireland and western scotland by the end of the day. strengthening winds. wednesday night, a spell of very disturbed weather. very heavy rain pushing in from the west. strong winds as well. gusts easily 40—50 miles per hour. perhaps even 60 in the central belt. we will keep you posted on the forecast for wednesday night into thursday. it all comes courtesy of this,
an unusually deep area of low pressure for the time of year. but it will drift away fairly quickly during thursday. the winds will ease and much of the rain will clear away. actually of the rain will clear away. things should brighten l through actually things should brighten up through the day. it is again going to feel relatively cool. those temperatures at best between 15 and 21 degrees. and then as we head towards the end of the week, we stick with the cool feel. yes, dry weather. spells of sunshine. but also spells of rain at times. that is all from me for now. hello. and a very good morning from singapore. i'm babita sharma. it's 8am on tuesday the 12th of june. just an hour away from a truly historic summit meeting. and i'm rico hizon. all eyes are on this tiny city—state, where president trump and kim jong—un are finally set to meet face to face. welcome to our special coverage here on newsday. here's the latest from the scene.