The AP Interview: Karzai invited’ Taliban to end chaos

The Taliban did not take the Afghan capital. They were invited to it, according to the man who sent the invitation.

The AP Interview: Karzai invited’ Taliban to end chaos

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave some first-hand insights into Ashraf Ghani's sudden and secret departure. He also explained how he invited the Taliban to the city to "protect the population so that there isn't chaos in the country and the unwelcome elements who would likely loot the country, loot shop".

Ghani's security personnel also fled when he left. When Karzai called him to find out what remnants of his government remained, Bismillah Khan, the defense minister, asked Karzai whether he wanted to leave Kabul. It turned out that there was none. The Kabul police chief was no longer there.

Karzai refused to leave the country as he was the president of the country for 13 years following the fall of Taliban in the aftermath the 9/11 attacks.

Karzai, who lives in a tree-lined compound near the city center with his wife and children, was candid about his belief that Ghani's flight had canceled a last-minute plan to allow the Taliban entry. Abdullah Abdullah (the government's chief negotiator) had been working in Doha with the Taliban leadership to reach a negotiated deal to allow the militia to enter capital under controlled conditions.

The countdown to a possible agreement began on Aug. 14, just before the Taliban took power.

Ghani met Karzai and Abdullah, and they agreed to leave Doha on the next day with a list 15 other people to negotiate a power-sharing deal. Although the Taliban were already in the vicinity of Kabul by Karzai's account, he said that the Qatari leadership had promised that the insurgent force would be kept out of the city until the agreement was reached.

Karzai stated that he waited until the morning of August 15 to create the list. The capital was on edge, fidgety. Rumours abound about a Taliban takeover. Karzai called Doha. He was informed that the Taliban would not enter Doha.

Karzai stated that the Taliban called at noon to tell Karzai that the government should remain in its current positions and that they should not be moving to indicate that they aren't planning to enter the city. "I spoke with others and received assurances from officials that it was true that both the Americans and government forces held firm to their positions (and) that Kabul would not fall.

Ghani fled the city at 2:45 p.m. Karzai, who was also called the interior minister and the defense minister, went in search of the Kabul police chief. All were gone. "There was no official in the capital. There was no police chief, corps commander or other units. They were all gone."

Ghani's deputy chief of the own protection unit called Karzai and asked him to visit the palace to take over the presidency. Karzai declined to accept the job, claiming that he was not legally entitled to it. The former president instead decided to broadcast a televised message with his children, "so the Afghan people will know that we're all here."

Karzai insisted that an agreement would have been reached for a peaceful transition if Ghani had remained in Kabul.

"Absolutely. Absolutely. "That is what we had been preparing for. We were hoping (along with the chairman of peace council) to go to Doha that night or the next day to finalize the accord," he stated. "And I believe that the Taliban leaders were waiting for us in Doha to accomplish the same... objective, the same purpose."

Karzai has been meeting regularly with the Taliban leadership, and he says that the world should engage with them. He said that Afghans must come together. He said that Afghanistan has been dominated by war for over 40 years and that Afghans have suffered from all sides in the past 20 years. "Afghans have suffered on all sides. . . . The Afghan army has been affected. The Taliban soldiers and the Afghan police suffered, while the Afghan police suffered."

He said, "An end can only be reached when Afghans come together and find their own path."

The plan is being developed by the former president. He is proposing the temporary resurrection the constitution that was in place when Afghanistan was a monarchy during his talks with Taliban. This idea was also discussed during Doha talks.

A traditional Loya Jirga, which is a grand council made up of all Afghans, would also be held. It would determine the country's future and include a representative government, constitution, and a national flag.

Although he claims they haven't rejected his formula in talks, there is no indication that the Taliban will accept it. A jirga, a centuries-old Afghan tradition of decision-making, is especially popular among Pashtuns who make up the backbone for the Taliban.

Karzai stated that a future Afghanistan must have universal education rights for girls and boys, and that women need to "find their place in the Afghan political system, in the administration, economic activity and so on, as well as in politics in all spheres of life." This is a matter on which there can be no compromise."

Karzai said that the Taliban must be confronted until this happens. Afghanistan must operate. The government servants must be paid. The health care facilities must function.

Karzai stated that the Taliban must cooperate with the government "right now." He also lamented the inaccurate and unchallenged international perceptions of Taliban. He mentioned claims that girls and women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male companion. "That is false. "There are girls on streets, women by themselves," Kabul's ground situation demonstrates this.

Karzai was asked to describe Taliban. He said, "I would refer them as Afghans but Afghans who have been through a very difficult time in their lives, as all the other Afghans over the past 40 years."

Karzai stated that we "have gone through an extremely difficult time in our history, in which we, as Afghans, made mistakes on all sides and in which the international community, and those who interacted directly with us, made enormous mistakes." It's time to all realize this, to reflect on the mistakes we all made, and to improve.