Zalmay Khalilzad: Ashraf Ghani chose to run away instead of fighting the Taliban

Speaking to the BBC, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation who negotiated and signed the Doha Deal two years ago, which paved the way for the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, fiercely criticized former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for not staying in Afghanistan to defend it against the Taliban.

The veteran US diplomat, who served as US ambassador to the UN, Iraq, and Afghanistan, compared Mr Ghani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who stayed to lead the fight against the Russian invasion of his country. He said that Ashraf Ghani’s unwillingness to make sacrifices and his mismanagement of the army led to the downfall of his government and the country.

“The president of Ukraine could have said that because NATO did not come to our defense, I had to leave the country. But he accepted the responsibility to defend his homeland and make sacrifices,” Khalilzad said. 

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“Ashraf Ghani claimed that he was not like Amanullah Khan who ran away, and Saleh, the vice president, similarly said that he would stay and fight. But where did they go and what did they do?” Khalilzad bemoaned. 

Khalilzad refuted accusations that he colluded and conspired with the Taliban, pointing to the failures of Afghan leaders to make intra-Afghan negotiations in forming a government succeed.

Khalilzad’s remarks came a day after a report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which said that the collapse of the Afghan Security Forces was caused by the ethnic favoritism and politicisation by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which paved the way for the Taliban’s return to power.