Wed, 05 Oct 2022

Ghani explains why he and his team fled Afghanistan

Nashanas Pasoon
23 Sep 2022, 22:59 GMT+10

In his first public and comprehensive interview after the collapse of the Afghan Government back in August last year, the former president Ashraf Ghani doubled down on blaming every stakeholder involved, with one notable exception, himself. The interview was conducted by a prominent Afghan reporter, Daud Junbesh, for the newly established Afghan Broadcasting Network (ABN), which is reportedly owned by Hamdullah Muheb, the former National Security Advisor in the Ghani administration.

Ghani still considers himself the legitimate President of Afghanistan and insists that he won't give away the title to anyone who is not elected directly by the Afghan people referring to the current Taliban administration.

During the interview, the former President shed light on several issues, including the circumstances under which he and his team fled the country. He stated that by 9 am on August 14th, most of his cabinet members had fled the country, including the Minister of Defense and the top brass within several critical ministries.

"I was the last person to leave the country. The U.S. had evacuated the Afghan tactical forces, including key generals, from Kabul early in the morning, leaving the army and the capital extremely vulnerable." stated former president Ghani.

During their call on August 14th, Ghani claimed that Blinken promised to fire Khalilzad, the former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. This wasn't reflected in Blinken's one-paragraph-long published statement, which caused further distrust.

"The Loya Jirga wasn't acceptable to the US, and the Afghan Constitution wasn't something the US would make a stand on with the Taliban anymore. Khalilzad divided the Afghan nation and army with his fake promises and actions," emphasized Ghani.

"Every Thursday, the Afghan Central Bank used to receive 200 million dollars from our national reserves in the United States. There was a delay in the transfer of these funds on August 12th, so we talked to the US authorities, and we were told that there were no sanctions put in place. Yet, the amount was to be reduced given the worries about the arrival of the Taliban at Kabul's doorsteps," said the former president.

Later on, there were allegations made by the Russian embassy in Kabul and the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, who accused the former president of taking $169 million of the money sent by the US authorities to the Afghan Central Bank in cash out of the country.

In the undated letter, leaked by Afghanistan's Tolo News and confirmed by the New York Times, Secretary Blinken wrote to Ghani about the possible rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the complete withdrawal of the U.S. forces by May 1st. This is seen as a desperate push by Blinken to get Ghani to accept an interim government. Ghani kept insisting that executive power can only be transferred through elections.

"Khalilzad had repeatedly invited the Afghan delegations to Doha, Dubai, and Istanbul, where the Taliban representative wouldn't agree to meet with them after their arrival. Looking back, I don't know if Khalilzad was an idiot, incompetent, or had other agendas," stated Ghani.

Ghazni claims that Khalilzad kept pushing for the inept and privileged sons and relatives of warlords and high-level government officials to be members of the official delegation of the Afghan government. "Who could better represent the Afghan people the sons of the warlords or the members of the Loya Jirga?" asks Ghani.

Doubling down on his criticism of Khalilzad, Ghani says, "Khalilzad's problem with him is that I am an Afghan and a Muslim; he is neither."

The former president believes that the high-ranking officials within the Biden administration disagreed with the steps Khalilzad took. For example, he named Lisa Curtis, the former Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for South and Central Asia. She had recently criticized the US-Taliban agreement in a tweet.

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Ghani says that the agreement was a betrayal of the Afghan people. He argues that compromises were made, and the Afghan people's lives and the Afghan government's future weren't given any importance.

Ghani doesn't shy away from blaming his high-ranking officials and military commanders. He says that the Afghan Minister of Defense, General Bismillah Mohammadi, had full authority and should be held accountable. Taliban took over 33 provinces in the span of 9 days. The defeat started in the provinces with militias, especially those led by the warlords like Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum. It is worth noting that both the national administrations (i.e., Karzai's and Ghani's) and the international community flooded these warlords with resources and power over the years while turning a blind to their reckless use of force and unthinkable corruption.

Ghani admitted that in the wake of the Taliban ambush, the morale inside Afghanistan and within the Afghan Army was at its lowest levels ever. He also accuses the political leaders within Afghanistan (namely Karzai, Abdullah, and Hekmatyar) of making deals with the Taliban paving the path for the unprecedented collapse of the Afghan government.

"The United States had proposed a flawed strategy to the Afghan government where the Afghan military was asked to withdraw from all the provinces and focus on protecting the critical provinces of Kabul and Kandahar so that the international troops could evacuate without facing too many hurdles. This strategy was glaringly against Afghan unity," mentioned Ghani.

Abdullah Abdullah, who had control over half of the Afghan government and remains in Kabul, is another critical player criticized by Ghani for preventing him from implementing meaningful reforms over the years. He seemed visibly frustrated that Abdullah wasn't being held accountable. In a recent India Today interview, Abdullah called Ghani "a national traitor."

Ghani is desperately trying to point the finger at anyone from Karzai and the Taliban to the international community and those close to him. Still, he took no blame for the disastrous collapse of his government. In the eyes of the Afghan nation, Ghani is one of the leading players responsible for the failure of the Afghan democratic experiment, and rightly so.

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