Afghanistan’s former president blames US for Taliban takeover
Ashraf Ghani, then president of Afghanistan, at a campaign rally in Kabul, September 2019. Photograph: Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times
The former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has broken his silence with his first interview since fleeing Kabul four months ago, in effect blaming the international community and in particular the US for the fall of the republic.
Mr Ghani told the BBC he was rushed into fleeing Kabul on a helicopter by his “terrified” national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, and the commander of the collapsing presidential security detail.
“They said the PPS [presidential protection service] has collapsed, [and] if I take a stand they will all be killed,” Mr Ghani said. “[Mohib] did not give me more than two minutes.”
He was speaking to the former chief of the British defence staff, Gen Nick Carter, who was guest-editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The Taliban were clearly on a path to controlling Afghanistan before Mr Ghani’s flight into exile, but his hasty departure ended hopes of an orderly handover of power that might have kept some aid flowing, and scuttled plans for an inclusive government.
Now Afghanistan is stalked by famine, its economy has contracted by more than a third and its health and education sectors have been crippled by an abrupt halt to foreign funds on which they relied.
Asked what he would say to the Afghan people, many of whom “blame you as their leader” for the current catastrophe, Mr Ghani said his biggest mistake had been relying on Afghanistan’s allies.
“What they rightly blame me for, they have a total right to. I trusted in our international partnership and pursued that path,” he said. “All of us made a huge mistake assuming the patience of the international community would last.”
Mr Ghani criticised Washington for leaving his government out of years of peace talks with the Taliban, claiming that deals signed under the US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in effect sacrificed Afghans for a smooth departure of US troops.
“Process-wise, outcome-wise, the responsibility has to clearly rest with the [American] team,” he said. “We were never given the opportunity to sit down with them [the Taliban]. Ambassador Khalilzad sat down with them; it became an American issue, not an Afghan issue. They erased us.”
Mr Khalilzad said in his own interview with the Today programme that the collapse of the republic was due to a “failure of Afghan leadership” and Afghan troops that did not “resist hard” against the Taliban.
Six months ago the two men were among the most influential figures shaping Afghanistan’s future; now neither is willing to accept any responsibility for the tragedy in the country.
The former president was asked about any personal regrets that had surfaced in the past 100 days. Mr Ghani did not mention the humanitarian crisis, but he lamented the damage to his reputation and legacy. “My work has been destroyed. My values have been trampled on, and I’ve been made a scapegoat.” – Guardian