Ashraf Ghani’s Abrupt Departure Scuttled a Power-Sharing Agreement

September 16, 2021

On Wednesday, Former President Ashraf Ghani’s abrupt departure last month spoiled a deal under which the Taliban would refrain from entering Kabul and negotiate a political transition, said the US negotiator for Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered a deal with the Taliban last year to withdraw US troops, told the Financial Times in his first interview since the collapse of the 20-year Western-backed government that the insurgents had agreed to stay outside the capital for two weeks and shape a future government.

“At the end, we had an agreement with the Taliban’s not to enter Kabul,” he said in an interview with the newspaper. However, Ghani fled on August 15, and the Taliban, in a previously scheduled meeting with Gen Frank McKenzie, chief of Central Command, asked if US troops would ensure Kabul’s security as government authority crumbled. “And then you know what happened, we weren’t going to accept responsibility,” Khalilzad explained.

President Joe Biden insisted that US troops would only work to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies, not to prolong America’s longest conflict. When asked about Khalilzad’s remarks, State Department spokesman Ned Price said staying in Kabul “a moment longer” was not an option. “There was never a realistic, viable, or practical option for the US to remain,” Price said to reporters. “We were left with the very clear and desolate impression that if the US sought to extend its presence on the ground, our service members would once again be targets of Taliban violence, let alone terrorist attacks by groups like IS (the militant IS group).”

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