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US says it had a last-ditch deal with Taliban, but Ashraf Ghani's escape derailed it

Zalmay Khalilzad has said the US had managed a last-minute deal with the Taliban but Ashraf Ghani's ‘escape’ from the country derailed everything. 
Ashraf Ghani was supposed to remain in his post until a political negotiation was reached, Zalmay Khalilzad said. (via REUTERS)
Published on Sep 15, 2021 08:06 PM IST
By hindustantimes.com | Written by Poulomi Ghosh

The United States had struck a last-minute deal with the Taliban according to which the Taliban were not supposed to enter Kabul and Ashraf Ghani was supposed to remain in his post until a settlement was reached in Qatar, but Ghani's last-minute decision to flee the country about which no one apparently had no inkling derailed everything and resulted in the fall of Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad has told the Financial Times. Zalmay was the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation at the state department and, as he claimed, he managed to secure a two-week grace period hours before the fall of Kabul.

Ghani's escape led to a vacuum and the Afghan army was disbanded. "There were questions of law and order in Kabul after Ghani fled . . . The Talibs [then] . . . say: ‘Are you going to take responsibility for security of Kabul now? . . . And then you know what happened, we weren’t going to take responsibility,” Khalilzad said in the interview. He said on August 12, the US and the Taliban met and reached an accord on August 14 that the Taliban will not capture Kabul; they will wait outside Kabul.

Ashraf Ghani was not going to be part of the future government as his resignation was a precondition set by the Taliban, but Ghani was supposed to be there till the negotiation goes on.


While this narrative fits into what the US has been claiming that Kabul's fall was hastened by the crumbling of the government, Ashraf Ghani repeatedly claimed that he was forced to leave the country to avoid bloodshed. In his video messages, he reiterated that he did not escape the country; he was made to leave.

Khalilzad, the 70-year-old Republican, who is blamed for the Doha peace agreement, was not removed from his post as special Afghanistan envoy even during Biden's time. Born in Afghanistan's Mazar-i-Sharif, Khalilzad is an ethnic Pashtun. His entry to the United States was as a high school exchange student.

He said though what happened in Kabul and how the US troops had to withdraw from the country was not his or the US's responsibility, he mourned the failure to deliver a political settlement with the Taliban, which should have happened years earlier. "There will be a lot of soul searching," he said in the interview.


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