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The people of Afghanistan are paying the price for the hatred and regrets of one man

In 2001, Zalmay Khalilzad worked with the Islamic Republic of Iran to prevent the appointment of Zahir Shah, the late king of Afghanistan, as the head of the interim administration; a man who could have been a symbol for unity and national solidarity

Camelia Entekhabifard
Wednesday 01 September 2021 16:32 BST
Taliban celebrate full control of Kabul with gunfire

US President Joe Biden says that he will judge the Taliban based on their actions. Let me tell you what he actually means: We don’t care what goes on in Afghanistan. It’s now up to you and your country.

Biden is doing all he can to criticise Donald Trump, claiming that he had no choice but to carry out the Doha Agreement made between the Taliban and the US under the former administration. But has Biden told the American people that some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, people who had a role in 9/11 and were later held at Guantanamo Bay, are now leaders of the Taliban? Has the US media reported that international terrorists, those on US intelligence most wanted lists, are now leading prayers in Kabul? Last Friday, Kabul’s communal prayers were led by Khalil Haqqani. Based on the information published by the US government, Haqaani has worked as a proxy for Al-Qaeda and has long been aware of the group’s terrorist activities.

The shameful Doha Agreement and its details were never shared publicly (although the Afghan government is said to have received a copy). US actions in agreeing to the return of the Taliban and an irresponsible and speedy withdrawal of forces should be further questioned. We all know what authority the US president has and how he could have used his position to disrupt the Doha Agreement or at least moderate or delay it to help the people of Afghanistan. He could even have renegotiated a deal with the Taliban (really with Pakistan and Qatar). But Biden decided not to use his powers.

Biden says that he will base his judgement on the Taliban’s actions. What he leaves unsaid is the fact that this evil group has changed very little. In the last few months, there have been thousands of reports about its actions violating individual and social rights. The group will wait for one more month to watch the last of the US and US-led coalition forces leave Afghanistan. It will then go on to bring about extremist Sharia rules, flogging, stoning, imprisonment and torture.

Why should the people of Afghanistan, without being consulted or taking part in any elections, accept the US’ decision to give all power to the Taliban? Is it not the case that even in the Doha Agreement there was a stipulation for a coalition government followed by general elections?

Former president Ashraf Ghani’s unexpected fleeing of Kabul and lack of an order for resistance to the Afghan National Army means that there is now very little possibility of the formation of a transitional government. It’s likely that some of those close to Ghani, maybe even his senior advisors, had hidden ties to the Taliban. They colluded with the Taliban and helped its ascent to power. They started their project when they helped bring about the early retirement of experienced and patriotic commanders of the army.

This isn’t the first time that the US has imposed its demands on the people of Afghanistan. In the two elections in which Hamid Karzai competed with Abdullah Abdullah (the former being Zalmay Khalilzad’s candidate in the transitional period), Karzai won both times but only with electoral fraud. The US asked Dr Abdullah to stop short of demanding what was truly his and give power to Karzai. This is while they knew very well that he was the true winner of the elections and was being prevented from coming to power.

The next two elections weren’t much better. Ashraf Ghani, too, was imposed on Afghanistan by Americans. Ghani had first returned to Kabul, following years of exile in the US, to serve as finance minister in the Karzai cabinet. Both Karzai and Ghani were friends and allies of the United States and there was a lot of trust between them. They led the country for 20 years but they did not remain loyal to the cause of the United States. Karzai went on to oppose the US and speak ill of it. Ashraf Ghani refused to accept the Doha Agreement and boldly criticised US and Khalilzad, former special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation at the state department. Ghani threw out a letter by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that suggested a transitional government.

Of the two former presidents, Karzai has now taken refuge in the home of his former rival, Abdullah; Ghani has, of course, fled the country and, not being allowed in the US, has found a place in the United Arab Emirates.

The people of Afghanistan are paying the price for the hatred and regrets of a man who became a US citizen years ago but who, in his soul and heart, continues to harbour the dream of becoming the president of Afghanistan. In the run-up to both the 2009 and 2014 elections, Khalilzad attempted to get support from the influential elders of Afghanistan to back his candidacy for presidency but he got nowhere.

In 2001, Khalilzad worked with the Islamic Republic of Iran to prevent the appointment of Zahir Shah, the late king of Afghanistan, as the head of the interim administration; a man who could have been a symbol for unity and national solidarity. Mohammadreza Bahrami, Iran’s former ambassador in Kabul, had close ties to the US embassy, Khalilzad and also the Northern Alliance. Working with Khalilzad, these two were able to deceive Zahir Shah.

The Iranian regime was worried that overthrowing the Taliban and replacing them with a regime led by the former king of Afghanistan would influence the Iranian people. Khalilzad also gave false messages from the US president to elders of Pashtun and other Afghan communities, giving the impression that the US was opposed to the assumption of power by Zahir Shah (credible sources among the former commanders of the Northern Alliance have confirmed this to me).

This grand betrayal helped both American and Iranian interests but it was presented as good news to Afghans. In the later years of his life, Zahir Shah had told people close to him that to the end of his life, there were two people he didn’t want to ever see again: Zalmay Khalilzad and UN envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi. Speaking to a group of people in Dubai, the late Zahir Shah said these two (Khallizad and Brahimi) helped destroy Afghanistan.

This is how, with the intervention of the US and Iran, the best opportunity for bringing about agreement, national unity and solidarity was lost in Afghanistan. The government that came later only won with American support and with rigged elections. National disappointment and competition of political factions aimed at eliminating one another destroyed an opportunity for effective nation building.

With all the pain and suffering that the people of Afghanistan have gone through and all the hesitations about an interim government, there will come an opportunity to leave behind this dark, bitter and painful period; Afghans will have new experiences and outlooks as they attempt a new destiny for themselves. The overthrown, treacherous and servile governments have shown their true faces; the Afghan nation I know, as shown by the evidence of history, will not accept humiliation, slavery and living under the yoke of regressive groups. Afghans will once more come to control their own destiny.

Camelia Entekhabifard is the editor-in-chief of The Independent Persian

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