The Taliban didn’t take over Kabul this August, but were invited into the Afghan capital, the country’s former president, Hamid Karzai, who said he issued that invitation, has revealed.
The move was the only way “to protect the population so that the country, the city doesn’t fall into chaos and the unwanted elements who would probably loot the country, loot shops,” Karzai insisted in an interview with AP on Wednesday.
The 63-year-old, who used to be Afghan president between 2001 and 2014, still remains a highly influential figure in the country.
In August – when Taliban forces swept through Afghanistan in a matter of weeks and approached Kabul, capitalizing on the withdrawal of the US forces after a two-decade-long presence in the country – Karzai had been involved in the negotiations on the power sharing deal between the radical group and the government of Ashraf Ghani.
He insisted that a peace agreement was on the cards on August 14, with President Ghani agreeing to travel to Qatari capital Doha the next day to meet with Taliban representatives.
On August 15, tensions were high in Kabul as the locals feared that the capital would be stormed, but the ex-president said that the Taliban called him in the morning to say that “the government should stay in its positions and should not move (as) they have no intention to (go) into the city.”
Government officials also assured him that the military was eager to defend the city and that “Kabul would not fall,” he added.
But the situation changed drastically when it became clear at around 2:45pm that Ghani and his top cabinet members had fled Kabul, Karzai said.
Ghani, who is accused of snatching large amounts of cash during his escape, is currently staying in the UAE.
“There was no official present at all in the capital, no police chief, no corps commander, no other units. They had all left.”
Karzai said that he had been offered to come to the palace and take the president’s role himself, but he declined as there were no legal grounds for him to do so.
Instead, the former president opted to deliver a televised address from his compound in Kabul, with his children at his side “so that the Afghan people know that we are all here.”
If not for Ghani’s rash move the peace deal would’ve been “absolutely” signed, the political veteran insisted. “I believe the Taliban leaders were also waiting for us in Doha for the same objective, for the same purpose.”
But now the Taliban have been solely running Afghanistan, with Karzai saying he has been regularly meeting with the group’s representatives over the past four months.
When asked to describe the Taliban, he said they were “Afghans, but Afghans who have gone through a very difficult period in their lives as all other Afghans have done for the past 40 years.”
The ex-president has called upon the international community to engage with the group so that the problems of Afghanistan could be solved. Karzai also urged unity inside the country, saying that “an end to that can only come when Afghans get together, find their own way out.”