President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan resurfaced publicly on Saturday in a pre-recorded television address to the nation, claiming to be “remobilizing” the barely functional Afghan military forces and vowing to “prevent further instability, violence and displacement of my people.”
The Afghan government did not indicate when Ghani recorded the video. Hours after it aired on national television, however, the Taliban surrounded Kabul and appear to be making a ploy to negotiate the surrender of Ghani’s government. Taliban officials issued a formal statement asserting they would not take the capital “by force” and affirming they had sent representatives to broker the end of the current government without a fight.
The Taliban launched an extensive campaign of conquest across the nation in April, following President Joe Biden’s declaration that he would keep American troops in the country through September 11, 2021 – the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks that prompted the Afghan War. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had negotiated an agreement with the Taliban in 2020 that required the jihadist terrorist group to abandon ties with al-Qaeda and stop attacking U.S. forces in exchange for Washington to withdraw all troops by May 1, 2021. Biden broke the deal, to which Taliban leaders responded that they would no longer abide by their commitments to it.
Biden recently changed the withdrawal date, again, from September 11 to August 31. While telling the Afghan government last week that they had to “fight for themselves,” Biden shortly thereafter ordered the redeployment of 3,000 troops to the country. Overnight on Saturday, Biden agreed to another 1,000-troop surge, making the total U.S. presence there 5,000 soldiers.
“Under the current situation, remobilizing of the security and defense forces is our top priority and required measures are underway for this purpose,” Ghani said in his speech on Saturday. He thanked Afghanistan’s security forces for their bravery, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News, and said his government would prevent “further killings, loss of the gains of the last 20 years, destruction of public property and continued instability.”
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have notoriously fled battle with the Taliban by the thousands this summer, many of them rushing into neighboring Tajikistan seeking asylum. Multiple local officials and whistleblowers have condemned the government in Kabul for offering the troops insufficient support; several have accused Ghani’s government of failing to feed the soldiers, much less provide weaponry.
Ghani’s corrupt government is reportedly embezzling $8 million a day through its customs department alone, former Finance Minister Mohammad Khalid Painda denounced in May. Painda abruptly fled the country last week.
Ghani also stated on Saturday that he had “started widespread consultations within and outside the government, with political leaders and international partners and I will soon share the results with the people.”
Tolo News reported that Ghani had assembled a team of big-name Afghan political players and “jihadi leaders” to discuss how to move forward in the face of Taliban troops surrounding Kabul on all sides.
“The participants of the meeting agreed to assign an authoritative team for negotiations to represent the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” Tolo cited the Afghan government as confirming. Among those on the negotiating team is former President Hamid Karzai, who presided over astronomical growth in Afghanistan’s opium industry – which directly profits the Taliban, among other nefarious actors – and corruption so endemic observers referred to his government as a “kleptocracy.” Karzai regularly appointed family members to lucrative government jobs despite minimal experience or expertise on the matters the job entailed. Officials publicly speculated that he may have struggled with opium addiction personally.
Khaama Press, an Afghan news agency, reported on Sunday that Ghani’s negotiations team is now speaking with Taliban leaders on how to hand the government over to the jihadist organization with minimal violence. The outlet reported that both sides appeared to be coming to an agreement to appoint former interior minister Ali Ahamd Jalali as the head of an “interim” government.”
The Taliban issued a formal statement through spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid following its surrounding of Kabul urging residents not to leave and assuring the international community that Taliban fighters would not violently seize the city.
“The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] do not intend to enter the city by force or war, but rather to enter peacefully through Kabul,” the statement read. “Negotiations are underway to ensure that the transition process is completed safely and securely, without compromising the lives, property, and honor of anyone, and without compromising the lives of Kabulis.”
The statement appeared to confirm Khaama’s report that Ghani’s team is actively discussing its surrender.