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Did President Ghani Conspire with Taliban to Keep Power with His Own Tribe?

Did President Ghani Conspire with Taliban to Keep Power with His Own Tribe?

Friday, 3 September, 2021 - 07:45
Camelia Entekhabifard
Editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian.

On the morning of Sunday August 15, around 200 of the forces of the special guard of the President of Afghanistan went to the Ministry of Defense. They were there to prepare things for a visit by President Ashraf Ghani.

Shortly before, then-defense minister, General Bismillah Mohammadi, had been informed that President Ghani wanted to drop by the ministry for a conversation.

A night before, President Ghani had met with a group of elders and his own cabinet ministers in the Presidential Arg. According to people present in the meeting, Ghani was asked to do something about the fact that Taliban, which was rapidly advancing, refused to negotiate with him. The president promised to resign from his position and send a negotiating delegation to Qatar that could talk to Taliban for the formation of an interim administration. Taliban received the message and was waiting for a delegation to reach Doha from Kabul on Monday. They were going to discuss the formation of a new government with Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai.

But it was also on Sunday that another event took place. An official with the president’s special guards contacted General Mohammadi from the Arg and let it be known that President Ghani had, about 15 minutes before, left the palace in a helicopter together with people close to him.

The story of Ghani’s visit to the Ministry of Defense was always a ploy. This way, a significant number of presidential guards were preoccupied in the ministry while General Mohammadi, a veteran Panjshiri who had fought for years alongside the legendary Ahmad Shah Masood, was also kept distracted.

“As soon as I got this message, I looked from the window of the Ministry of Defense to see inside the Arg,” Bismillah Mohammadi says, “I saw that a cascade of cars full of armed people were going toward the Arg on the path that connects it with the ministry.” (A narrow path connects the two buildings which look into each other.)

According to Mohammadi’s estimate, 50 to 60 cars were seen moving inside the Arg.

The Arg fell in less than half an hour after Ghani’s exit to a group who, we now know, belong to the Haqqani faction of Taliban.

How could the Haqqani terrorists so quickly reach Kabul from their positions outside the capital city? It seems like they were working with their accomplices inside the Arg and had prior positions inside the city. Before the defense minister was able to act to defend the president’s office, they got to Arg. This blitzkrieg-like attack gives rise to the suspicion that President Ghani and the Haqqani group, who belong to the same Pashtun tribal confederacy as him, i.e. the Qaljayis, were conspiring together; Arg was given to the Taliban in conjunction with Ghani’s escape. The one man who could have stopped the Taliban take-over, i.e the defense minister, was kept away.

According to what some forces in the special guards told General Mohammadi, when they tried to stop Ghani and others such as Hamdollah Moheb (head of the national security council) from leaving Arg for their helicopter, they were distracted by pro-Ghani security forces who threw bags full of US dollars toward them. This way, they would be counting banknotes while Afghanistan’s president fled the country.

This is how Ghani and people close to him worked with the Haqqani group to shock not only the people of Afghanistan and the world but the negotiating delegation in Doha who believed themselves to be on the verge of capturing power, i.e. Dorrani-centered Taliban who hails from the southern city of Kandahar and are closed to former president Karzai.

Much evidence shows that Ghani’s last several years in office were marred by a struggle between Qaljayis and Dorranis. The clash between Karzai and Ghani, part of this severe ethnic struggle over power, meant that even though Ghani came to power with the support of Karzai, the latter would later try to undermine him. The idea of forming an interim administration headed by Karzai was also rooted in this inter-Pashtun tribal struggle.

The two grand tribal confederacies, Qaljayis and Dorranis, have long competed with one another. Their power struggle is a theme of Afghanistan’s political history. In their search for a strong supporter, Qaljayis became closer to Pakistan (the current Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, is also a Qaljayi.) Meanwhile, Dorrani politicians found themselves closer to Qatar which, given its sheer wealth, has become a major powerbroker in the region.

The same theme that animated the Ghani-Karzai clash will now see a clash between Sirajuddin Haqqani, a Qaljani who considers himself a caliph, and Hibatullah Akhundzada, a Dorrani who prefers the Commander of the Faithful title. If Akhundzada is actually alive and finally appears in front of TV cameras, the competition will intensify. If he proves to be dead, the new Commander of the Faithful will be Mullah Baradar from Kandahar.

Kabul is now controlled by the Haqqanis. The political cadre of this faction consists of terrorists which were freed from jail and are backed by Pakistan. Most of the terror operations by the group, and the marching orders of war against the US, was also issued by the Haqqani Taliban.

In the current organization, Sirajuddin Haqqani, a known terrorist, is a deputy to Akhundzada. It would be silly to assume the US is not aware of the terrorist background of these people or their presence in Kabul.

We can thus conclude that the leadership of Taliban, too, is engulfed with ethnic and tribal conflicts between Dorranis and Qaljayis and these tensions could add to the challenges and increasing rivalries. This is especially true since we have yet to see proof that Akhundzada is indeed alive and well.

As Afghanistan goes through turbulence caused by the rapid withdrawal of American forces, and as its people, especially in Panjshir, face security threats, it looks like some grand terrorists are preparing themselves for assuming absolute power in Afghanistan. Sirajuddin Haqqani is close to capturing an effective caliphate for himself; the power is going to be completely transferred from Dorranis to Qaljayis. This explains why the supporters of Mr. Haqqani have taken into calling him Caliph — they are paving the way to his reaching the top Taliban leadership position.

The events of the last two weeks in Afghanistan and the untimely escape of President Ghani tells us that he has transferred power to people from his own tribal confederation, i.e. the Qaljayi Paktiyayis. This is why he reneged on his promise to resign. In a conspiracy with the heads of his tribal confederacy, he betrayed his people and deceived his government so that the power could go to his tribal confederacy.

Those who were in the Arg that day, i.e. the forces of the special presidential guards, tell us that, due to fear, all they could do was change clothes, put their arms down and flee.

Kabul didn’t fall on August 15. It was sacrificed in a collusion between the sitting president and the Haqqani group.

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