Ashraf Ghani was the only person who could fix Afghanistan.
Ghani was a long-time researcher on how to increase growth in the poor countries before he became president in 2014. A Fulbright Scholar with a doctorate from Columbia University, he taught at some of America’s elite academic institutions before stints at the World Bank and United Nations. Later he co-wrote “Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.”
Ghani fled Afghanistan Sunday and was still a mystery until the United Arab Emirates declared that he and his family had arrived in the Persian Gulf “on humanitarian grounds”. Ghani, however, denied this claim in a Wednesday video message. He’s been called a villain in the country by his central bank chief, and other key members of his government. All attempts to reach him and his close aides failed.
Ghani stated that he was forced to flee Afghanistan in order to stop Kabul’s bloodshed and destruction. However, he said that despite his intention to leave, security officials warned him about a “big conspiracy” to end his life. “I was forced out of Afghanistan in such an a manner that I couldn’t even take off my sandals to wear my shoes.”
Ghani’s rapid fall reflects the wider failures of the U.S. in imposing a government on Afghanistan with buy-in from a variety of power brokers who have a long history fighting on the battlefield, rather than at the poll box. Ghani, a Pashtun who was the dominant ethnic group in the country, was seen as an outsider and lacking the political touch to unify disparate factions. He became increasingly isolated.
“Ghani wasn’t accommodating of the reality of how Afghanistan works,” stated Kabir Taneja (author of “The ISIS Peril” and a fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. “He didn’t or couldn’t grasp the warlords who are essentially ethnic fault line people.
Ghani was the finance minister of the Hamid Karzai administration for two years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Afterward Ghani became a darling of the international aid world, giving Ted Talks, penning op-eds in major newspapers and speaking at conferences. He was once considered to be a candidate for UN secretary general.
Ghani, who had failed to run for the presidency in 2009 was able to link up with prominent Afghan politicians, including Abdul Rashid Dostum (a warlord turned-vice president) to win the top job five more years later. His victory was thwarted from the beginning. John Kerry, America’s top diplomat at the time, flew to Kabul to broker unity government. This gave Ghani’s main rival the title of “chief executive”, a title that is not found in Afghanistan’s U.S.-designed constitution.
In 2017, Ghani said he had “the worst job on earth” in an interview with the BBC. He claimed that Afghan security forces have turned the corner against Taliban and that coalition forces will be able leave Afghanistan by 2021.
He was wrong, but it turned out to be true. In an effort to end America’s longest conflict, President Donald Trump’s administration began direct talks with Taliban and closed Ghani out. After President Joe Biden had set an Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline, Ghani refused to resign and allowed a transitional government take power. The Taliban continued to make military advances.
“I Will Not Flee!”
Omar Samad, former Afghan ambassador, said that while Ghani claimed to be for peace, he actually preferred war to keep his power. “Ghani’s delay tactics destroyed the chance of a deal which would have removed him from office, but would have opened the door to a broad-based transition.”
Ghani assured the people that he would not succumb to the Taliban’s attack on Kabul this weekend. He said the Taliban were coming for Kabul in the same way as Amanullah Khan who fled to British India in 1929.
Ghani declared, “I will not flee!” at a Kabul event on Aug. 4, loudening his voice. “I will not seek safety haven, and I will serve people,” Ghani said.