Ghani’s departure, according to a US envoy, scuttled Afghan power-sharing.
President Ashraf Ghani’s unexpected departure, according to the US negotiator on Afghanistan, wrecked a plan in which the Taliban would hold off on invading Kabul and negotiate a political transition.
Zalmay Khalilzad, who secured a 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw US troops, told the Financial Times in his first interview following the collapse of the 20-year Western-backed government that the rebels had agreed to stay outside the city for two weeks and shape a new government.
“Even towards the end, we had a deal with the Talibs not to invade Kabul,” he said in an interview published Wednesday in the newspaper.
However, Ghani departed on August 15, and the Taliban asked General Frank McKenzie, the chief of Central Command, if US troops would maintain security for Kabul as the government’s authority fell.
Khalilzad explained, “And then you know what occurred, we weren’t going to take responsibility.”
President Joe Biden stated that US troops would only strive to evacuate Americans and Afghan partners, not to prolong the country’s longest war.
When asked about Khalilzad’s words, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said staying in Kabul “a second longer” was not an option.
Price told reporters, “There was never a realistic, feasible, or practical option for the United States to stay.”
“We were left with the very distinct and stark idea that if the US wanted to stay on the ground longer, our servicemembers… would once again be targets of Taliban violence, not to mention terrorist strikes by groups like ISIS.”
Ghani, who fled to the United Arab Emirates for safety, has apologized for how the government ended, but claims he went on the recommendation of palace security to avoid bloodshed on the streets.
As part of any transitional administration, the Taliban had demanded Ghani’s resignation. Finally, the Islamists named a caretaker government that comprises US-designated terrorists and has no non-Taliban or female members.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before Congress this week that he spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on August 14 and that the Afghan leader committed to work on a transitional government as well as “fight to the death” if the Taliban refused.
Ghani did not give Blinken any notice that he would leave the next day, according to Blinken.
Khalilzad, an Afghan-born senior official in previous President George W. Bush’s administration who was appointed by Donald Trump to negotiate the departure, has faced harsh criticism in Washington. Brief News from Washington Newsday.