Afghanistan’s acting President Amrullah Saleh, 48, weighs in on the possible consequences of Taliban’s Kabul takeover, the role of Pakistan in sponsoring insurgency against western allies, the failure of Doha peace talks and how lack of political will in Washington DC led to the present situation in Afghanistan, in an exclusive interview to CNN-News 18
Afghanistan’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself as the acting President of the country after the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15, has since been building an anti-Taliban resistance in Panjshir Valley, northeast of Kabul, which is still free from Taliban control.
In an exclusive interview with CNN-NEWS18, Saleh, 48, speaks of the possible consequences of the Taliban’s Kabul takeover, the role of Pakistan in sponsoring insurgency against western allies in the country, the failure of Doha peace talks and how lack of political will in Washington DC led to the present situation in Afghanistan. Excerpts:
Did you expect the collapse of the Afghan state to happen in the manner it did? What is your impression of the manner in which Ashraf Ghani left?
I don’t think this is the right time to reflect on that massive tragedy
Who do you blame for the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and why? What do you think will be the ramifications of the Taliban’s Kabul takeover, both for Afghanistan and the world? Will Afghanistan become a breeding ground for terror?
It’s very clear, the Taliban were never under pressure. They used Pakistan as their support base. They were not having sanctuaries there. The whole of Pakistan was under the service of the Taliban. The US tried to incentivise the Pakistani corporation to buy it. The more they paid it, the more emboldened the Pakistanis were to provide more services and more aid to the Taliban. So the issue of a nuclear state sponsoring terrorism and insurgency against western allies in the Afghan state was never addressed.
The second reason is that Doha talks legitimised the Taliban who did not remain loyal to their words. They did not honour their commitment and they fooled the whole international community. The purpose of setting up the Doha office was to keep the international community divided, keep them hopeful for a peaceful process that did not exist while they were investing in military conquest and Pakistanis were backing them wholeheartedly.
The third reason is that in the last two years the republic came under enormous pressure from our American allies. They blackmailed us and said that either you release the prisoners or we will cut aid to you and decrease our military assistance. We said that are you sure that these people will not end up at the frontlines and their answer was no, whereas they all ended up at frontlines. So it was not prisoners release, but it was gifting the Taliban a division of highly radicalised fighters.
The fourth reason is that there were people in our government who were not aware of the situation and taking everything for granted. But we cannot confine it to these four reasons; there are various other reasons which led to this tragedy.
The bottom line is that NATO is gone, the US military is gone, but the Afghan people have not gone. They could not be evacuated. Kabul airport is the tip of an iceberg. The country has sunken to tragedy and terrorist groups have taken over Afghanistan. Today for example a money launderer who was facilitating transactions between Al-Qaeda sympathisers and Taliban has become governor of the Afghan central bank, Haqqanis are running Kabul. Needless to explain who Haqqanis are. This is a shame and betrayal and I don’t want to be a part of that shame and betrayal.
We will fight till the enemy believes and comes to a conclusion that Afghanistan should remain Afghanistan and not become Talibanistan.
They are watching what they did. They are seeing how the world media is writing negative reports. The US is a global power, the mightiest military power and we never wished them. But this shows a single wrong political judgement humiliates a superpower too. It wasn’t ever about the American military or American intelligence, it was a wrong judgement and they have started to pay the price.
Why couldn’t you calculate what was going to happen on the ground? If a superpower decides to go this way or that way, there is so little or nothing we could do to change the attitude. I do accept that I have been a major player and a person of significance but did we have any say in US decisions and negotiations, No. We did not manage to influence the decisions. What happened in Afghanistan, I have been warning them of these kinds of consequences for two years. They all are paying the price now. This was a political decision, not a military or intelligence one. One political misjudgment by the US has resulted in this. It wasn’t the Taliban who won this war, it was the lack of political will in Washington DC that led this scramble to happen.
It’s perfect. We are in control of the situation. I move around with minimum security. It is the people of the area which have an exceptional reputation.