IF anyone was supposed to know how to fix Afghanistan, it was Ashraf Ghani.
Before becoming president in 2014, Ghani spent much of his life studying how to boost growth in poor nations. A Fulbright Scholar with a doctorate from Columbia University, he taught at some of America’s elite academic institutions before stints at the World Bank and United Nations. Later he co-wrote Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.
Ghani fled Afghanistan on Sunday, and his whereabouts were a mystery before the United Arab Emirates announced three days later he and his family were in the Persian Gulf state “on humanitarian grounds.” The Russians claimed he left Afghanistan with four cars and a helicopter full of cash, something Ghani denied in a video message released Wednesday. In the country he’s become a villain: his central bank chief and key members of his administration have denounced him publicly. Efforts to reach him or his close aides were unsuccessful.
“I had to move out of Afghanistan to prevent Kabul from bloodshed and destruction,” Ghani said in the video, adding that he had no intention to leave but security officials warned him of a “big conspiracy” to take his life. “I was moved out of Afghanistan in such a way that I didn’t even have the chance to take off my sandals and wear my shoes instead.”
In many ways, Ghani’s swift downfall reflects the broader failures of the US to impose a government on Afghanistan that had buy-in from a range of competing power brokers with a long history of fighting on the battlefield rather than at the ballot box. Although he was a Pashtun, the country’s dominant ethnic group, Ghani was seen as an outsider who lacked the political touch to unite disparate factions, and he became more isolated over time.
“Ghani was not accommodating of the realities of how Afghanistan works,” said Kabir Taneja, author of The ISIS Peril: The World’s Most Feared Terror Group and its Shadow on South Asia and a fellow at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “He either didn’t understand or couldn’t understand the warlords, who are essentially people representing ethnic fault lines.”
After the US invasion in 2001, Ghani returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than a quarter-century, and served for two years as finance minister in an administration led by Hamid Karzai.
Afterward Ghani became a darling of the international aid world, giving Ted Talks, penning op-eds in major newspapers and speaking at conferences. At one point he was considered a candidate for UN secretary-general.
Following a failed bid for the presidency in 2009, Ghani linked up with several prominent Afghan politicians—including influential warlord-turned-vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum—to win the top job five years later.
But his victory was undermined from the start: John Kerry, then America’s top diplomat, flew to Kabul to broker a unity government that gave his main rival the position of “chief executive”—a title that appears nowhere in Afghanistan’s US-modeled constitution.
In 2017, Ghani said he had “the worst job on earth” in an interview with the BBC. Still, he claimed that Afghan security forces had turned a corner against the Taliban and coalition forces would be able to leave by 2021.
That turned out to be accurate, just not in the way he predicted. President Donald Trump’s administration started direct talks with the Taliban in a bid to end America’s longest war, and shut Ghani out of the process. Then this year, after President Joe Biden set a withdrawal deadline for August 31, Ghani resisted calls to step aside and allow a transitional government to take power as the Taliban made military advances.
‘I will not flee!’
“GHANI pretended to be for peace, but in reality he was in favor of war in order to remain in power even if it cost lives and pushed the Taliban to revert back to a military option,” said Omar Samad, former Afghan ambassador to Europe and fellow at Atlantic Council. “The delay tactics ruined the chances for a deal that would have removed him from office but would have paved the way for a broad-based transition.”
As the Taliban descended on Kabul over the weekend, Ghani told the people that he would avoid the fate of former king Amanullah Khan, who abdicated and fled to British India in 1929.
“I will not flee!” Ghani said at an event in Kabul on August 4, raising his voice loudly. “I won’t seek safe haven and I will be at the service of people.”
Yet as the Taliban blitzed across the country and marched to Kabul, Ghani appeared increasingly isolated. In a video released hours before he fled, Ghani called for the Defense Ministry to set up telephone helplines for citizens to call.
AFTER Ghani fled, even his Cabinet members were furious.
“They tied our hands behind our backs and sold off the country,” Bismillah Mohammadi, Afghanistan’s acting defense minister, said on Twitter after Ghani fled. “Damn to Ghani and his team.”
In the video message on Wednesday, Ghani said he had been planning to negotiate with the Taliban to have a peaceful transfer of power. He called for an inclusive government and said he was in talks to return to Afghanistan.
With Ghani out of the country, former president Karzai and other Afghan politicians are now leading discussions with the Taliban on setting up a new government. One thing they’ll easily agree on: Disdain for Ghani.
“Ashraf Ghani has betrayed his own motherland, team and tribe,” Abdul Haq Hamad, a member of Taliban’s media team, told Afghanistan’s Tolo News. “Such treason will always be remembered.”
Shadowy Taliban leaders now running Afghanistan
FOR decades the Taliban’s leadership structure has been in the shadows: Even before the US invasion in 2001, little was known about how the group operates beyond the names of a few top leaders.
Now the militants are trying to recast themselves in a more moderate mold: promising amnesty for their enemies, vowing to build an inclusive government with various ethnic groups, keep terrorist groups off Afghan soil and allowing women to work within the bounds of Shariah law. Those are all among conditions for the US and its allies to recognize the group as the legitimate new rulers of Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s senior leadership includes many Mujahideen fighters who were once trained by the US during the Cold War to battle against the invading Soviet Union forces in the 1980s. The Sunni group’s membership is drawn largely from the majority ethnic Pashtun population most dominant in the southern part of the country.
Here are seven of the most influential men in the organization:
Haibatullah Akhundzada, Supreme Commander
Born in 1961, Akhunzada became the Taliban’s third supreme commander—the highest rank in the organization—after the US killed his predecessor in a 2016 drone strike. He is more known as a religious leader than a military commander, and maintains a low profile. Akhunzada hasn’t been seen in public since he became the Taliban’s top leader, and few photos of him are available. His last public statement came in May to mark Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
Abdul Ghani Baradar, Deputy Leader
The Taliban’s deputy leader is the main public face of the Taliban who will likely head the next government. He was closely associated with Osama bin Laden and co-founded the Taliban along with Mullah Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed cleric who was the group’s first supreme leader. Baradar was captured in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in 2010 in a joint operation with US Intelligence, and Zalmay Khalilzad—the US special envoy for Afghanistan—reportedly helped secure his release in 2018 ahead of peace talks with the Trump administration.
Baradar lived in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban has a political office, until his return on Tuesday to the southern city of Kandahar, the group’s birthplace. As the Taliban’s diplomatic leader, he signed a peace deal with the Trump administration in February 2020 that laid out the roadmap for the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. He also met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier this month in Tianjin.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, Leader of Designated Terrorist Group
The leader of the Haqqani Network, a US-designated terrorist organization, became the second deputy Taliban leader after the groups merged around 2016. He is believed to move between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is said to oversee finances and military assets across the two countries. It’s unclear how the US will treat the Haqqani Network as part of ongoing negotiations with the Taliban. His brother, also a key Taliban leader, was captured by US forces in Bahrain in 2014 and transferred to Bagram prison before being released in a prisoner exchange four years later.
Mohammad Yaqoob, Founder’s Son
Yaqoob is the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, and was once considered a contender for the group’s top job because of his lineage. Few details are known about him. News reports suggest that he was educated in a seminary in neighboring Pakistan and now lives in Afghanistan. He is believed to supervise the group’s military activities along with Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Abdul Hakim Haqqani, Top Negotiator
Believed to be close to Supreme Commander Akhunzada, Haqqani heads the Taliban’s negotiating team in charge of the peace talks with the former US-backed government. He also heads a senior council of religious scholars.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Key Diplomat
Unlike many of the group’s leaders, Stanikzai speaks fluent English and traveled the world extensively as deputy foreign minister when the militants last controlled power in Afghanistan. In 1996, he visited Washington on a failed mission to convince the Clinton administration to acknowledge the Taliban’s government. He has also led delegations to China to meet government officials, according to a Reuters report. Stanikzai is also Abdul Hakim Haqqani’s deputy negotiator on talks with Afghan government officials.
Zabihullah Mujahed, Main Spokesman
Mujahed earlier this week addressed the Taliban’s first press conference in Kabul, and is likely to play a significant role in conveying the group’s message to the international community. During 20 years of war, he communicated with journalists only over the phone or via text messages. The media interaction on August 17 was the first time he was seen in public.
PEOPLE SAY – Y DID GHANI AND ANA QUIT ?
And that too – so fast ?
It is foolish to write them off !
They have a plan !
They want to burden the Taliban with running the nation ! It is not the riots and insurrections ! It is food,water,power,education, employment, security of the people ! They surprised Taliban who will take time to set up their team !
Their aim is to choke the Taliban and make it fall in the lap of PRC and Russia and Pakistan – so that Ghani and Company can gain relevance and possibly lead a return with the ANA ! The US will NOT like the PRC,Russian,Iranian axis via Afghanistan !
Taliban has to 1st and foremost take care of the basic needs of the people – id.est.,food,water,power,education, employment, security of the people !
It it fails – the people will insurrect, and the moles and spies embedded in Afghanistan, by the US and Ghani will activate and this time the ANA and other mercenaries will use the cover of the masses to attack the Taliban.
By quitting, Ghani has also sent a message to the Indian weasels for NOT aiding the ANA – and thus,Ghani blew up the Indian Chabahar and the Indian investments in Afghanistan.
Ghani and ANA are waiting and watching !
1st Taliban have to end Corruption
2nd provide basic amenties – id.est.,food,water,power,education at the lowest cost
3 rd stabilise the currency
Ghani and his gang know the nation and its people ! It is easier to start food inflation than to lead an insurrection ! Then Food Inflation will lead to the people’s insurrection and then Ghani and his merry men will come marching in !
To start with,Taliban should get food aid from PRC and other nations, and ensure that the lowest strata of society, gets every morsel of the food – for free – and that will give them,the permanent anchor ! dindooohindoo