“To avoid a bloodbath, I thought it would be better to leave,” Ashraf Ghani wrote on his Facebook account early on Monday, hours after leaving Afghanistan. At that time, the Taliban had already released images in which they appeared seated in his president’s office. It’s an undignified ending for a man who wanted to help his country but couldn’t connect with his pulse and whose severity used to be perceived as arrogance. Above all, he failed to make peace with this militia, as he had promised during his election campaigns.
The 72-year-old former president was born in the province of Logar, in the then Kingdom of Afghanistan, in a Pashtun tribe. As a teenager, he went to study in the United States on a scholarship and later graduated in Anthropology at the American University of Beirut. After teaching at the University of Kabul between 1973 and 1977, he returned to the United States for his doctorate and taught there until joining the World Bank in 1991. Meanwhile, his country was occupied by the Soviets (1979-1989) and plunged into war bloody civilian who ended up bringing the Taliban to power.
Ghani only returned to his country after the fall of the Taliban regime after the US intervention in 2001. He then resigned from his position at the World Bank to work as a special adviser to the United Nations. In this capacity, he was one of the artisans of the Provisional Government that took over Afghanistan until the elections were organized and became one of the main advisors to the first president, Hamid Karzai. As finance minister, he established a new currency, reformed the tax system and encouraged the diaspora to return to the country, while making use of his international relations to secure funding for the new government.
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However, he failed in the fight against the corruption that was beginning to spread through all layers of the administration and ended up falling out with Karzai. Then, in 2004, he returned to academic life as dean of the University of Kabul. But by then he had been attracted to politics. His bid to win the presidency in the 2009 elections was a resounding failure. It came in fourth, with just 3% of the vote.
But he did it five years later, when Karzai could no longer run for a third term, by constitutional order, at the price of allying himself with Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious warlord accused of crimes against humanity. He was re-elected in 2019. In both disputes the result was questioned by his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, with whom he had to share power and who has now condemned his flight from the country.
During his first term, he renewed the administration by replacing many heads of clientelist networks with young Afghans, many of them educated abroad. But it has failed in its promise to fight corruption and improve the economy. In addition, the increase in Taliban attacks, coinciding with a reduction in foreign troops, has put Afghans’ patience to the test. The rise in violence led him to advocate the need for an agreement with the Taliban, but the mujaheddin group, which never recognized the Western-backed government, refused to dialogue with him or his representatives.
Islamic fundamentalists did not hesitate, however, to negotiate behind its back with the United States. The Ghani government’s relations with the US, which had already been suffering ups and downs because of its criticism of international aid, soured hopelessly once the Doha negotiations became known. Ghani reluctantly adhered to then-President Donald Trump’s plans and attended, as an honored guest, the signing in Qatar’s capital of a troop withdrawal agreement that would eventually bring the Taliban to power a year and a half later.
Along the way, Ghani, a cosmopolitan, isolated himself in the presidential palace, less and less tolerant of criticism. His withdrawal may also have weighed on the stomach cancer he suffered from. Ghani is married to a Lebanese Christian, Rula Saade, whom he met when the two were students in Beirut, and they have a daughter and a son.
Without the official government, Ahmad Massud, son of legendary Afghan anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Masud, announced on Monday that he is taking on the “resistance” against the Taliban, who have regained power in Afghanistan. In an open letter published in France, the son of the Lion of Panshir, murdered by al Qaeda two days before the 9/11 attacks, asked Afghans to join his ranks in the Panshir Valley, north of Kabul, as he asks to the international community to support his fight against “tyranny”.
“My comrades-in-arms and I are willing to give our blood. We call on all free Afghans, all those who reject servitude, to join our stronghold in the [Vale do] Panshir, the last free region of our tormented country”, writes Massud in a letter published in the magazine La Regle du Jeu, by the French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, a great friend of his father and who in 2002 produced a report on “France’s participation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan” at the request of then French President Jacques Chirac.
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