Ghani’s frequent UAE trips attract speculation

(190928) -- KABUL, Sept. 28, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Afghan President and presidential candidate Mohammad Ashraf Ghani speaks after casting ballot at a polling center during presidential election in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Sept. 28, 2019. Afghanistan held presidential election on Saturday. (Xinhua/Rahmatullah Alizadah)

Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) eight times, the maximum number of his trips to a foreign country, since assuming office in 2014, attracting widespread speculation over the nature of these trips, a media report said.

The report by TOLO News on Wednesday showed that in all the eight trips to the UAE, Ghani was accompanied by his security chiefs, including 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 has claimed that these trips were aimed to further boost economic and political cooperation between the two countries.

“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.

But Sayed Eshaq Gailani, head of Nahzat-e-Hambastagi Afghanistan party, said: “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.”

Although the UAE was one of the first governments that officially recognized the Taliban, the relations between the country and the Taliban have faced challenges following the killing of UAE diplomats in Kandahar city on January 10, 2017.

During the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels in 2017, UAE showed readiness to send its military personnel to Afghanistan if needed.