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Ashraf Ghani

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Ashraf Ghani
اشرف غني
200214-D-AP390-6147 (49673192251) (cropped).jpg
Ghani in 2020
14th President of Afghanistan
Assumed office
29 September 2014
Vice PresidentAmrullah Saleh
Sarwar Danish
Abdul Rashid Dostum
Preceded byHamid Karzai
Chancellor of Kabul University
In office
22 December 2004 – 21 December 2008
Preceded byHabibullah Habib
Succeeded byHamidullah Amin
Minister of Finance
In office
2 June 2002 – 14 December 2004
PresidentHamid Karzai
Preceded byHedayat Amin Arsala
Succeeded byAnwar ul-Haq Ahady
Personal details
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

(1949-05-19) 19 May 1949 (age 72)
Logar, Afghanistan
American (1964–2009)
Political partyIndependent
(m. 1975)
RelationsHashmat Ghani Ahmadzai (brother)
Children2 (Mariam and Tariq)
Alma materAmerican University of Beirut
Columbia University

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (Pashto/Dari: محمد اشرف غني احمدزی); born 19 May 1949) is an Afghan politician, academic, and economist who is serving as President of Afghanistan. He was first elected on 20 September 2014 and was re-elected in the 28 September 2019 presidential election. He was announced the winner after a protracted process in February 2020 and was sworn in for a second term on 9 March 2020. An anthropologist by education, he previously served as Minister of Finance and the Chancellor of Kabul University.

Before returning to Afghanistan in 2002, Ghani was a professor of anthropology at numerous institutions (mostly Johns Hopkins University), and later started working with the World Bank. As the Finance Minister of Afghanistan between July 2002 and December 2004, he led Afghanistan's attempted economic recovery after the collapse of the Taliban government.

He is the co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, an organization set up in 2005 to improve the ability of states to serve their citizens. In 2005 he gave a TED talk, in which he discussed how to rebuild a broken state such as Afghanistan.[2] He is a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, an independent initiative hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. In 2013 he was ranked 50th in an online poll to name the world's top 100 intellectuals conducted by Foreign Policy magazine and second in a similar poll run by Prospect magazine.[3]

An independent politician, Ghani came in fourth in the 2009 presidential election, behind Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, and Ramazan Bashardost. In the first round of the 2014 presidential election, Ghani secured 35% of the vote, second to Abdullah who secured 45% of the votes cast. However, in the second round Ghani secured around 55.3% of the votes while Abdullah secured around 44.7% of the votes cast. As a result, chaos ensued and the United States intervened to form a unity government.[4]

Ghani was re-elected when the final results of the 2019 presidential elections were announced after a long delay on 18 February 2020.[5][6] He was sworn in as president for a second five-year term on 9 March 2020.[7]

Early life[edit]

Ghani was born on 19 May 1949[8] in the Logar Province of Afghanistan. He belongs to the Ahmadzai Pashtun tribe.[9][10]

As a foreign exchange student, Ashraf attended Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon and graduated with the class of 1967. He initially wanted to study Law but then changed his major to Cultural Anthropology. Ghani attended the American University in Beirut where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1973, and after that, attended Columbia University, where he earned his master's degree in 1977, and a PhD degree in 1983. He met his future wife, Rula, while studying there.[9]

Academic career[edit]

Following his bachelor's degree, he served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973–77) and Aarhus University in Denmark (1977). Following his PhD degree, he was invited to teach at University of California, Berkeley in 1983, and then at Johns Hopkins University from 1983 to 1991. He has also attended the Harvard-INSEAD and World Bank-Stanford Graduate School of Business's leadership training program. His academic research was on state-building and social transformation. In 1985, he completed a year of fieldwork researching Pakistani madrassas as a Fulbright Scholar.[9]

World Bank[edit]

He joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East and South Asia during the mid-1990s.[9]

Political career[edit]

Returning to Afghanistan after 24 years in December 2001, Ghani left his posts at the UN and World Bank to join the new Afghan government as the chief advisor to President Hamid Karzai on 1 February 2002.

After leaving Kabul University, Ghani co-founded the Institute for State Effectiveness[11] with Clare Lockhart, of which he was Chairman. The Institute put forward a framework proposing that the state should perform ten functions in order to serve its citizens. This framework was discussed by leaders and managers of post-conflict transitions at a meeting sponsored by the UN and World Bank in September 2005. The program proposed that double compacts between the international community, government and the population of a country could be used as a basis for organizing aid and other interventions, and that an annual sovereignty index to measure state effectiveness be compiled.

Ghani was tipped as a candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations at the end of 2006[12] in a front-page report in The Financial Times that quoted him as saying, "I hope to win, through ideas." Carlos Pascual of the Brookings Institution was also quoted, praising Ghani's "tremendous intellect, talent and capacity."[13]

In 2005, Ghani gave keynote speeches for meetings including the American Bar Association's International Rule of Law Symposium, the Trans-Atlantic Policy Network, the annual meeting of the Norwegian Government's development staff, CSIS's meeting on UN reform, the UN–OECD–World Bank's meeting on Fragile States and TEDGlobal.[14] He contributed to the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Finance Minister of Afghanistan[edit]

He carried out extensive reforms, including issuing a new currency, computerizing treasury operations, instituting a single treasury account, adopting a policy of balanced budgets and using budgets as the central policy instrument, centralizing revenue collection, tariff reform and overhauling customs. He instituted regular reporting to the cabinet, the public and international stakeholders as a tool of transparency and accountability, and required donors to focus their interventions on three sectors, improving accountability with government counterparts and preparing a development strategy that held Afghans more accountable for their own future development.

Poverty eradication through wealth creation and the establishment of citizens' rights is the heart of Ghani's development approach. The National Solidarity Program[15] covers 13,000 of the country's estimated 20,000 villages.

2009 Presidential election[edit]

Ghani at a meeting in Panjshir Province in 2011

In January 2009 an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute included Ghani on a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan presidential election.[16][17]

On 7 May 2009, Ashraf Ghani registered as a candidate in the 2009 Afghan presidential election. Ghani's campaign emphasized the importance of: a representative administration; good governance; a dynamic economy and employment opportunities for the Afghan people.[18] Unlike other major candidates, Ghani asked the Afghan diaspora to support his campaign and provide financial support.[19] He appointed Mohammed Ayub Rafiqi as one of his vice president candidate deputies, and paid for the noted Clinton campaign chief strategist James Carville as a campaign advisor.[20]

Preliminary results placed Ghani fourth in a field of 38, securing roughly 3% of the votes.[21]


On 28 January 2010, Ghani attended the International Conference on Afghanistan in London, pledging his support to help rebuild their country. Ghani presented his ideas to Karzai as an example of the importance of cooperation among Afghans and with the international community, supporting Karzai's reconciliation strategy. Ghani said hearing Karzai's second inaugural address in November 2009 and his pledges to fight corruption, promote reconciliation and replace international security forces persuaded him to help.[22]


President Ghani sitting with Abdullah Abdullah and John Kerry in July 2014
Ghani with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ufa, Russia, 2015

After announcing his candidacy for the 2014 elections, Ghani tapped General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a prominent Uzbek politician and former military official in Karzai's government and Sarwar Danish, an ethnic Hazara, who also served as the Justice Minister in Karzai's cabinet, as his vice presidential candidates.[23]

Ghani meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Saadabad Palace
Ghani with U.S. President Donald Trump in October 2017
Ghani with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Dilkusha Mansion Garden of the Arg in Kabul

After none of the candidates managed to win more than 50% of the vote in the first round of the election, Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the two front runners from the first round, contested in a run-off election, which was held on 14 June 2014.

Initial results from the run-off elections showed Ghani as the overwhelming favourite to win the elections. However, allegations of electoral fraud resulted in a stalemate, threats of violence and the formation of a parallel government by the camp of his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. On 7 August 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kabul to broker a deal that outlined an extensive audit of nearly 8 million votes and formation of a national unity government with a new role for a chief executive officer who would carry out meaningful functions within the president's administration. After a three-month audit process, which was supervised by the United Nations with financial support from the U.S. government, the Independent Election Commission announced Ghani as President after Ghani agreed to a national unity deal. Initially, the election commission said it would not formally announce specific results. It later released a statement that said Ghani managed to secure 55.4% and Abdullah Abdullah secured 43.5% of the vote, although it declined to release the individual vote results. In September 2019, an explosion near an election rally attended by President Ashraf Ghani killed 24 people and injured 31 others, but Ghani was unhurt.[24]

Economy and trade[edit]

During his tenure, Ghani has strengthened ties with Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, with which it has made deals to increase mutual trading.[25][26] New trade routes have also been launched within the wider region. The Chabahar Port in Iran allows increased trading with India whilst avoiding Pakistani territory.[27] A railway line from Khaf in Iran to Herat in Afghanistan is set to be opened in late 2018.[28][29] In 2017, a railway line from Turkmenistan was extended to Aqina in Afghanistan, the precursor of the "Lapis Lazuli" transport corridor that was signed by Ghani that same year and would link Afghanistan to the Caucasus and the Black Sea.[30] Other regional projects include the CASA-1000 hydroelectricity transmission from Central Asia, and the TAPI gas pipeline, expected to be completed by 2018 and 2019 respectively.[31] In January 2018 at the inauguration of the Khan Steel iron smelting plant in Kabul, Ghani said that he is aiming for Afghanistan to become a steel exporter.[32]

In 2015, a survey conducted by the Afghan news channel TOLO News showed that the popularity of Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan had fallen dramatically with only 27.5% of the respondents claiming that they were satisfied with his leadership.[33]

Relations with Pakistan[edit]

Since his election, Ghani wanted to improve relations with Pakistan, which in turn could pave the way for peace talks with the Taliban. He made his first visit to Pakistan on 14 November 2014, meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.[34] However, after many terror attacks in Afghanistan which were largely blamed on Pakistan, and failed Taliban peace talks, Ghani grew increasingly cold to Pakistan.[35] Ghani claimed that Pakistan had hit an "undeclared war of aggression" against Afghanistan.[36] Following two deadly Taliban/Haqqani attacks in Kabul in January 2018, Ghani called Pakistan the "center of the Taliban".[37] Tolo News while quoting an unnamed source alleged that Ashraf Ghani had refused to take a call from the Pakistani prime minister, instead he sent a NDS delegation to hand over evidence that the terrorists were supported by Pakistan.[38] However, Afghan envoy Omar Zakhilwal rejected such reports regarding Ghani's phone call rejection with Pakistan prime minister. He stated that no phone call took place between the two leaders and that such reports are baseless.[39]

Relations with Taliban[edit]

In an interview with Vice News Ghani said that his 'heart breaks for Talibans'. He further stated that 'Talibans are Afghans and he is president of all Afghans'.[40][41][42] Ashraf Ghani also said that he is willing to offer Afghan passports to the Taliban and to recognise them as a legitimate political group in Afghanistan, as an attempt to strike a peace deal with them.[43]

In March 2021, in an attempt to advance the peace talks, Ghani expressed his intentions of convincing the Taliban to hold fresh elections and allow forming of a new government through a democratic process.[44]

Political views[edit]

Ghani is pro-modernist and a fond admirer of former Afghanistan's progressive King Amanullah Khan[45][46] and president Mohammed Daoud Khan.[47] Ghani has imitated the policies of Daoud Khan, which in turn has led to a rise in ethnic tensions in Afghanistan.

Personal life[edit]

President Ghani at a conference in 2014

Ashraf Ghani is married to Rula Saade,[48] Rula Saade Ghani was born in a Lebanese Christian family.[49] The couple married after they met during their studies at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon during the 1970s.[50] They eventually settled in the United States and obtained U.S. citizenship. However, Ghani renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2009 so he could run in Afghan elections.[1]

Ashraf and Rula Ghani have two children, a daughter, Mariam, a Brooklyn-based visual artist,[51] and a son, Tariq. Both were born in the United States and carry U.S. citizenship and passports. In an unusual move for a politician in Afghanistan, Ghani at his presidential inauguration in 2014 publicly thanked his wife, acknowledging her with an Afghan name, Bibi Gul.[50] "I want to thank my partner, Bibi Gul, for supporting me and Afghanistan," he said. "She has always supported Afghan women and I hope she continues to do so."[52]

Ashraf Ghani also owns 200 acres of land in Surkhab area of Logar province. Abdul Baqi Ahmadzai, who is close to Ashraf Ghani, claims that Ashraf Ghani inherited a lot of land from his father. However, Ashraf Ghani bought this 200 acres of land separately in Logar province.[53]

Ghani lost most of his stomach after suffering from cancer in the 1990s. It is said that Ghani wakes up every morning before five, and reads for two to three hours.[54]

He is the older brother of Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, an Afghan politician who is the Grand Council Chieftain of the Kuchis.[55]


On 2 February 2020, Ashraf Ghani made controversial remarks while talking about Timur and Muhammad of Ghor[56] which angered the Uzbek population of Afghanistan.[57] He made those remarks while delivering a speech to a group of Afghan students on History, Culture, and the National Identity.[57][58] Ghani stated that Muhammad of Ghor destroyed Afghanistan’s central irrigation system while Genghis Khan demolished the irrigation system of the northern provinces. Ghani also taunted Turkic conqueror Amir Timur by calling him ‘lame’ and stated that Timur wiped-out the irrigation system for Sistan, Farah, and Helmand provinces.[58] His remarks regarding Timur were considered highly offensive to Uzbeks, according to experts, which drew wide spread condemnation from Afghanistan's Uzbeks population.[57]

Following his remarks, residents of Faryab province staged protests and demanded an apology from Ashraf Ghani. The protesters threatened that they would take serious action if Ghani did not apologize for his remarks.[59] Abdul Rashid Dostum, former vice president of Afghanistan and an ethnic Uzbek, also demanded an apology from Ashraf Ghani. Bashir Ahmad Tahyanj, spokesperson of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, said that "Ghani has a personal bias towards historic figures, honorable ethnicities, the history and culture of the people who live in Afghanistan. This is not his first time.”[57] However, the Afghan government palace in a statement defended Ghani's remarks and stated that 'what Ghani said about Timur was not offensive or insulting'.[58][57][60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Afghanistan’s elections: Ghani vs Abdullah, by Brieana Marticorena. The Strategist. 19 August 2014.
  2. ^ Ashraf Ghani. "Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state - TED Talk -". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  3. ^ "World Thinkers 2013 – Prospect Magazine". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  4. ^ TAMEEM AKHGAR and KATHY GANNON (28 September 2019). "Top 5 Afghan presidential candidates in Saturday's election". Associated Press (AP).
  5. ^ Mashal, Mujib (18 February 2020). "After 5-Month Delay, Ashraf Ghani Is Named Winner of Afghan Election". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Ghani named winner of disputed Afghan poll, rival also claims victory". Reuters. 19 February 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  7. ^ "Amid Controversy, Ghani Takes Oath of Office". TOLOnews. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai". Twitter. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d "Ashraf Ghani". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  10. ^ "Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai". Dawn. April 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Institute for State Effectiveness". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  12. ^ "Sekretarz generalny ONZ. Wybory 2006". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Ghani joins race to succeed Annan". Financial Times. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Ted Global – Day 1". The TrueTalk Blog. Archived from the original on 4 October 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  15. ^ "National Solidarity Program". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2006.
  16. ^ Ahmad Majidyar (January 2009). "Afghanistan's Presidential Election" (PDF). American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on 8 September 2009. A world-renowned economist, Ahmadzai was a key figure in the formation of the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. The chairman of the Institute for State Effectiveness, he served as an adviser to the United Nations for the formation of the Bonn Agreement and as finance minister of Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004. His recent harsh criticism of Karzai’s government has prompted speculation that he may run for president. An ethnic Pashtun, Ahmadzai has not officially announced his candidacy.
  17. ^ Rashid, Ahmed (2012). Pakistan in the Brink. Allen Lane. p. 80. ISBN 9781846145858.
  18. ^ "Ashraf Ghani for President » Ashraf Ghani's registration for the 2009 Presidential Elections". Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Ashraf Ghani for President". Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  20. ^ "James Carville Joins The Afghan Campaign Trail". NPR. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  21. ^ "Preliminary Result of Afghanistan Presidential Contest". Sabawoon online. 20 August 2009. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009.
  22. ^ "". Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  23. ^ "Kick Out Karzai We Deserve a Second Chance". NPR. 20 August 2009. Archived from the original on 31 May 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2013.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  24. ^ "Blast kills 24 at Afghan election rally, aide says president unhurt". Reuters. 17 September 2019. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  25. ^ Putz, Catherine (6 December 2017). "Ghani and Mirziyoyev Meet, Renew Afghan-Uzbek Ties". The Diplomat. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  26. ^ "Uzbekistan, Afghanistan readying agreement on trade and cooperation in transit of goods". The Tashkent Times. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  27. ^ Suba Chandran, D. (31 October 2017). "India & Kabul play new round in Great Game: Chabahar". The Indian Express. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  28. ^ "Route of the Khaf – Herat railway | Railways of Afghanistan". 17 October 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  29. ^ "Khaf-Herat railroad to be launched in Iran soon". 7 August 2018. "Iran-Afghanistan railway networks through Khaf-Herat Railroad will be completed in the next few months," Yazdani said, according to Mehr news agency on August 3
  30. ^ "Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey create transport corridor". 26 November 2017.
  31. ^ Rubin, Barnett (30 December 2015). "The TAPI Pipeline and Paths to Peace in Afghanistan" – via
  32. ^ "Our Goal Is To Turn Afghanistan Into A Steel Exporter". TOLOnews.
  33. ^ "Ashraf Ghani and the Pashtun Dilemma". The Diplomat. 18 January 2015.
  34. ^ Islamabad, Agence France-Presse in (14 November 2014). "Afghan president Ashraf Ghani arrives in Islamabad to build Pakistan ties". the Guardian.
  35. ^ "Ghani and Pakistan".
  36. ^ "Ghani Says Afghanistan Hit by 'Undeclared War' From Pakistan". 6 June 2017 – via
  37. ^ "Pakistan Is The Center Of Taliban, Ghani Tells The Nation". TOLOnews.
  38. ^ "Afghan President speaks to Modi, not to Pakistan PM". 16 April 2018. Archived from the original on 3 February 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018 – via The Economic Times.
  39. ^ "Afghan Envoy Dismisses Reports on Ghani's phone call Rejection with Pak PM Abbasi". Ariana News. 31 January 2018.
  40. ^ "'My Heart Breaks for Taliban, They Are Afghans' – Ghani". Ariana News. 14 September 2018. Archived from the original on 14 September 2018.
  41. ^ "Ashraf Ghani: 'My heart breaks for Taliban'". 1TV News. 15 September 2018. Archived from the original on 16 September 2018.
  42. ^ "Ashraf Ghani: 'My heart breaks for Taliban'". Afghan Voice Agency. 15 September 2018.
  43. ^ "Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani offers passports to Taliban in bid to strike peace deal". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 1 March 2018. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018.
  44. ^ Shalizi, Hamid; Greenfield, Charlotte (6 March 2021). "Afghan president says ready to discuss elections to advance talks with Taliban". Reuters. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  45. ^ "Mohammad Ashraf Ghani joins presidential race". Salam Watandar. 20 January 2019.
  46. ^ "Afghans earned democracy under Ghazi Amanullah Khan: Ghani". Pajhwok News. 21 October 2018.
  47. ^ "Daoud's Footprints: how Afghanistan's First President Influences Ghani". The Globe Post. 7 November 2018. Not surprisingly, as his popularity has been eroding among non-Pashtuns, the imitation of Daoud has served Ghani as a tool for promoting his profile amongst Pashtuns.
  48. ^ Tanya Goudsouzian. "Afghan first lady in shadow of 1920s queen?". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  49. ^ "Al Arabiya: Afghanistan's next first lady, a Christian Lebanese-American?". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  50. ^ a b Alexander, Harriet (29 September 2014). "Ashraf Ghani inaugurated: Is Afghanistan ready for a high-profile first lady?". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  51. ^ Walsh, Declan; Nordland, Rod (14 October 2014). "Jolting Some, Afghan Leader Brings Wife Into the Picture". The New York Times.
  52. ^ Nathan Hodge and Margherita Stancati (29 September 2014). "Ghani Sworn In as Afghan President". WSJ. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  53. ^ "Taliban collect most part of crop harvest from Ghani's land". Pajhwok News. 22 January 2019.
  54. ^ Packer, George. "Afghanistan's Theorist-in-Chief". The New Yorker. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  55. ^ "Poverty, violence put Kuchi nomads on road to nowhere". Union Democrat. 30 May 2006. p. 4B. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  56. ^ "Is the ethnic look correct in the history of the region?". (in Persian). Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  57. ^ a b c d e "Insulting any tribe, ethnicity, group, is offensive by law". Arina News. 2 February 2020.
  58. ^ a b c "Ghani's remarks about Timur Gurkani spark anger among Afghanistan's Uzbeks". Khaama Press. 2 February 2020.
  59. ^ "Faryab resident protest". Aamaj News (in Persian). 2 February 2020.
  60. ^ "Dustom Calls on President Ghani to Apologize For His Remarks About Uzbeks". 2 February 2020.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Hedayat Amin Arsala
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Anwar ul-Haq Ahady
Preceded by
Hamid Karzai
President of Afghanistan