The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan says he had secured a last-minute agreement with the Taliban in August to keep the rebels out of Kabul while negotiating a political transition. But he says ousting President Ashraf Ghani thwarted the plan.
The US-born (Afghan-born) envoy Zalmay Khalilzad made the revelation in an interview with The Financial Times, adding that they had reached an agreement for a two-week break, just hours before the Afghan capital fell to the Taliban on the 15th. August. He said Mr Ghani’s escape left a security vacuum in the city, prompting the Islamic group to march on the city the same day.
Mr Khalilzad explained that the deal would allow Mr Ghani to continue in his post until a solution was reached in Doha for a new government, although the Taliban would remain at the gates of Kabul.
Confirmation of the Taliban
A Taliban official on Wednesday confirmed the details of the agreement reached with Mr Khalilzad in Doha, the Qatari capital, where the rebels hold their political office.
“Yes. “We were promised by the gentleman that the forces would not enter Kabul and we would talk about a peaceful transfer of power,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told VOA.
Mr Khalilzad told the Financial Times he had no idea Mr Ghani intended to leave the asylum in the United Arab Emirates.
“There were problems with law and order in Kabul after Ghani left… The Taliban asked if we would take responsibility for Kabul security now. “And you know what happened next, we could not take responsibility,” said the American envoy.
Mr. Khalilzad negotiated an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, paving the way for the United States to repatriate all US troops from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of involvement in the Afghan war.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also repeatedly stated in recent days that he had received assurances from Ghani on the eve of his departure that the Afghan president supported Washington’s plan.
“What he [Ghani] “he told me the night before he left that, as he put it, he was prepared to ‘fight to the death,'” Secretary Blinken told Afghanistan-based Tolo News earlier this month.
Mr Ghani has made statements in recent days from the United Arab Emirates apologizing for the “abandonment” of Afghans and saying he has acted on the advice of the security services of the presidential palace. The former president also denied allegations that he left with tens of millions of dollars stolen with him.
The Taliban announced an interim government last week in Afghanistan, 20 years after being ousted from power by the US-led international military operation over the sheltering of al-Qaeda leaders.
The Taliban imposed strict Islamic laws when they were previously in control of the country from 1996 to 2001. A brutal justice system, the mistreatment of Afghan minorities, the banning of women from public life and the banning of girls from education marked Taliban rule at the time. leading to the global isolation of Afghanistan.
The United States and many other countries are now pressuring the Taliban not to reinstate their system of harsh governance if they want their country to remain part of the international community and gain diplomatic recognition for a Taliban-led government. in Kabul./VOA
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