Afghanistan’s President Clings to Power as Taliban Close In

Several of his shut political associates have surrendered to the Taliban and not using a battle, or fled into exile. His military has all however collapsed and the warlords he was relying on have proved ineffectual, or are bargaining for his or her lives.

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, is extra remoted than ever, going through stress to step apart — and never simply from the Taliban. His dominion is shrinking by the day. He guidelines the capital, Kabul, two different cities within the north and east, and pockets within the inside.

Yet Mr. Ghani is stubbornly clinging to energy.

On Wednesday he flew to certainly one of his loyalist redoubts, the northern metropolis of Mazar-i-Sharif, in makes an attempt to rally pro-government forces. On Thursday, officers mentioned he spoke by cellphone with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. On Friday he was mentioned to be main a nationwide safety meeting within the Kabul presidential palace.

The Afghan president’s choices seem restricted. He has little discernible assist at dwelling or from his former international backers. Street demonstrations supporting his military rapidly fizzled out.

Thousands of his troopers, surrendering en masse, have determined Mr. Ghani shouldn’t be “worth fighting for,” Omar Zakhilwal, a former finance minister, tweeted Friday.

Far from hinting at resignation, the president has solely recommended that he wouldn’t run for re-election if the Taliban agreed to elections. Their battlefield rampage seems to have made the supply irrelevant. As his nation slips away and provincial capitals fall, Mr. Ghani and his advisers have mentioned little, generally even refusing to acknowledge the losses.

Even Mr. Ghani’s substantial corps of bodyguards, mentioned to quantity within the 1000’s, poses a possible risk. Many are from villages now managed by the Taliban.

Leading Afghanistan is a harmful business. For greater than a century, most Afghan rulers have both been killed or died in exile, the Boston University anthropologist Thomas Barfield factors out.

Still, if — as appears more and more doubtless — Mr. Ghani is deposed by the Taliban, he can lay declare to a singular distinction. “This will be the first insurgency that has ever driven a Kabul government from power, that has also had the backing of a foreign power,” mentioned Mr. Barfield.

The final time the Taliban seized management, in 1996, one former ruler wound up swinging from a lamppost in downtown Kabul and the opposite fled a whole lot of miles to the north to govern a postage-stamp rump state for 5 years.

Mr. Ghani reveals no indicators that the merciless classes of the previous sway him any greater than the unsure current and fearful future.

“He’s hunkering down,” mentioned Torhek Farhadi, a former Afghan presidential adviser. “He’s refusing to admit the reality. The news is relayed to him through a filter.”

“Trusted lieutenants surrendered just this morning,” mentioned Mr. Farhadi, referring to the current capitulations of governors Mr. Ghani appointed in Ghazni and Logar provinces.

“He’s at risk from his own bodyguards,” mentioned Mr. Farhadi. “This is how it happens in Afghanistan. The last days of any leader are like this.”

Mr. Ghazni’s youthful finance minister, Khalid Payenda, fled the nation a number of days in the past.

Leadership traits that previously merely aggravated his fellow residents — Mr. Ghani’s refusal to delegate authority or hear to others extra educated than himself, particularly on navy issues — at the moment are proving deadly to the Afghan state.

“He is isolated, confused, and deeply mistrustful of everyone,” mentioned Tamim Asey, a former deputy minister of protection. “He doesn’t know how to reverse this. I don’t see signs that he has a program.”

Unless a compromise might be reached, Mr. Asey mentioned, “I would say that Kabul could become a blood bath very soon.”

The Taliban have mentioned that the preventing won’t finish except Mr. Ghani is eliminated. As the “polarizing figure” in Mr. Farhadi’s phrases, Mr. Ghani has “demeaned the Taliban time and time again, saying, ‘you are the stooges of the Pakistanis.’” In return, the Taliban see him as the “stooge” of the Americans.

Analysts place a lot of the blame for the present catastrophe on the pinnacle of Mr. Ghani, a former World Bank anthropologist and printed writer with an outsized religion in his personal mind.

The Americans tried to assemble republican establishments on Afghan soil, however they proved to be a flimsy facade. Instead, Mr. Ghani personalised energy to disastrous impact.

“He needed the militias in the north and west,” but confirmed contempt for his or her leaders. On Friday a key militia chief within the western metropolis of Herat, Ismail Khan, surrendered to the Taliban.

Mr. Ghani “did not take advice from anybody,” mentioned Mr. Barfield, of Boston University. “If he had delegated power to the military, it might have been saved. Now, it’s a case of reality biting.”

Back to top button