Afghanistan’s Khaama Press reported on Sunday that Taliban leaders are in Kabul negotiating the end of the legitimate government of the country and its handover to the Taliban.
Taliban fighters have succeeded in sweeping what they had initially claimed to be about 85 percent of the country in between May 1 – the deadline President Donald Trump had agreed to for a full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in a deal with the Taliban brokered last year – and this month, by the end of which President Joe Biden had agreed to withdraw troops. Biden announced in April that he would not abide by the Taliban agreement, prompting Taliban leaders to assert that they were no longer beholden to its provisions, namely avoiding attacks on U.S. forces and cutting ties to international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.
The Taliban launched 22,000 attacks in the immediate aftermath of Biden’s announcement that he would not adhere to the Trump Afghanistan agreement.
On Saturday, Biden blamed Trump from the Taliban’s rapid territorial gains, which had left it at the doorsteps of the national capital, Kabul. He also announced he would deploy another 1,000 American troops into Afghanistan, totaling 5,000 redeployed in the past weekend. The redeployment calls into question Biden’s commitment to the August 31 deadline he set for the end of the U.S. military presence in the country.
It is not clear what the American troops would be doing in the country as the Afghan government, according to Khaama, is negotiating its departure.
“Sources have said that there are negotiations going on in the Afghan Presidential Palace ARG to transfer power to the Taliban,” Khaama reported on Sunday. The report offered few details beyond that Abdullah Abdullah, former rival to President Ashraf Ghani and current lead negotiator of the peace process, was in charge of the talks. The sources claimed that the departing government and the Taliban had agreed to install longtime bureaucrat and former interior minister Ali Ahamd Jalali as the head of an “interim” government.”
The report follows the national broadcast of a pre-recorded speech by Ghani in which he assured the Afghan people that “remobilizing of the security and defense forces is our top priority and required measures are underway for this purpose.”
“I know that you are concerned about your present and future but I assure you as your president that my focus is to prevent further instability, violence and displacement of my people,” Ghani said. “To do this, I have started widespread consultations within and outside the government, with political leaders and international partners and I will soon share the results with the people.”
Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported that, following the speech, Ghani “held a consultative meeting with political and jihadi leaders” – according to another Afghan news agency, Tolo News – to create a plan to prevent instability in the country. The Taliban’s gains outside of Kabul have already triggered the flight of thousands of soldiers into neighboring countries and a growing internal displacement crisis that has seen Kabul parks effectively turn into refugee camps.
Tolo News listed several big-name veterans of Afghan politics on the list of those meeting with Ghani, including former President Hamid Karzai, arguably the most corrupt person to serve in Afghan government since the 2001 U.S. invasion.
The Taliban issued a public statement late Saturday addressed to the people of Kabul, insisting they would not enter the city by force or attack. The statement suggested they expected the Afghan government to hand the country over bloodlessly, as many leaders of local and regional governments have done with their territories throughout the summer.
“Since the capital Kabul is a large and densely populated 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, posted on Twitter by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, read in part. “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 Islamic Emirate instructs all its forces to stand at the gates of Kabul, not to try to enter the city,” it added.
In a separate statement, the Taliban implored businesspeople and shopkeepers not to flee the city, apparently concerned that their arrival would prompt an economic collapse.