The self-proclaimed president of Afghanistan and one of two men leading the anti-Taliban resistance has made a direct appeal to Canadians — and by extension the West — not to give up on his country or its people.
Amrullah Saleh, a Tajik leader and vice-president in the democratically-elected government of President Ashraf Ghani, delivered a recorded speech to an Ottawa-based think-tank, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.
The audio remarks and transcript were released early Friday.
From his hiding place in the remote Panshir Valley, 125 kilometres north of Kabul, Saleh issued a direct appeal to the Canadian government not to abandon the pluralistic country and society it has tried to help build in Afghanistan.
“The solution is not abandonment,” said Saleh, a former Northern Alliance commander who opposed the Taliban two decades ago when they were last in power.
“The solution is not losing hope. The solution is not surrendering to darkness. The solution is standing tall, believing that no force, no force on earth, can and should be allowed to subdue humanity, to crush it.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, shown here in June 2021 in Washington, fled Afghanistan as the Taliban closed in on Kabul. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)
Saleh, who had served as vice-president since February 2020, proclaimed himself president after Ghani fled the country following the surrender of Kabul. He has vowed to fight the Taliban and joined forces with Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, who led fierce resistance against the Taliban until he was assassinated by al-Qaeda in September 2001.
Saleh has given several interviews to media in southeast Asia, and his recorded statement appears aimed at rallying Western support for his resistance movement.
Urges pressure on Pakistan
In the recorded speech, Saleh said he wished Ghani had stayed and fought.
The defeat of the democratically-elected government, Saleh insisted, was the result of foreign influence, as well as wrongheaded political decisions by both Afghan leaders and their Western backers.
The “Taliban were not and are not alone in doing this to the Afghan people,” Saleh said. “They are being assisted by the Pakistan Army, by the Pakistani intelligence establishment.”
He urged western governments to publicly acknowledge “this harsh and brutal fact” and to pressure Pakistan at the United Nations.
Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man on a stretcher for treatment after Thursday’s deadly attacks at the airport in Kabul, where thousands have gathered in recent days in an attempt to gain passage on Western-organized airlifts out of Afghanistan. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistan has repeatedly denied that it sponsored or has ever given safe haven to the Taliban and even al-Qaeda, despite the U.S. discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden a decade ago in Abbottabad.
The government in Islamabad also recently launched a determined diplomatic offensive to convince the West not to turn its back on the new Taliban government.
Saleh acknowledges that many in Canada and the West may be prepared to walk away. However, he urged the international community to look more closely at how it tried to impose ideas and solutions on Afghanistan, rather than taking into account what the people of the long-suffering country wanted.
“In the last 20 years, not necessarily the Afghan advice was taken into consideration,” he said. “There were many players outside our control. There were many actors who were not listening to us.
‘The Afghans did put up a fight’
“And let us remember, the current disaster is not because of the failure of our militaries, intelligence services, or diplomatic circles. The current failure is a result of a wrong political decision, of wrong political judgment, of political misjudgment.”
U.S. President Joe Biden has blamed the collapse of the Western-back government on the inability of Afghan leaders to find common ground.
Although he didn’t name Biden directly, Saleh took issue with the narrative that Afghans were not prepared to fight for their country.
“While a lot of people try to scapegoat Afghans, saying they didn’t fight for their country, that is absolutely wrong, baseless and ridiculous,” he said.
“The Afghans did put up a fight, but wrong policies, wrong strategies, by a few, in the most powerful capitals, led to this disaster.”