Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, told the Financial Times that former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee Afghanistan ruined a last-minute deal with the Taliban.
Under the deal, the Taliban would not have entered Kabul until they negotiated a political transition with Ghani. But by unexpectedly fleeing on August 15th, Ghani created a security vacuum that prompted the Taliban to march into the city.
“Even at the end, we had an agreement with the Talibs for [them] not to enter Kabul,” Khalilzad said. He told the Times that there was no inkling “at all” that Ghani would flee.
After Ghani fled, Khalilzad said there were “questions of law and order in Kabul,” and the Taliban asked if the US would take responsibility for the security of the city. “And then you know what happened, we weren’t going to take responsibility,” he said.
After he left Afghanistan, Ghani claimed he did so to prevent “further bloodshed.” But the Taliban had an interest in letting the US evacuation go as smoothly as possible, which they demonstrated by cooperating once they entered Kabul, so Khalilzad’s account is likely accurate.