The Media Line: Former Afghan Officials Appeal to US Congress for Support in Restoring Legitimate Gov’t


Former Afghan Officials Appeal to US Congress for Support in Restoring Legitimate Gov’t

According to experts, the majority of the signatories are members of the previous corrupt regime that dominated the country for two decades

By Arshad Mehmood/The Media Line

[Islamabad] Afghanistan’s former top officials have written to the US Congress, pleading for action against the Taliban and backing targeted sanctions.

The group consists of at least 28 Afghan ministers, military leaders, diplomats, members of parliament, and civil society activists. They claim that after the Taliban took power following a hasty US withdrawal in August 2021, the Afghan people refused to recognize the Taliban as the “legitimate rulers.”

All the signatories of the letter to the US Congress are self-imposed exiles and have taken refuge in various European countries, as well as the United States.

The former Afghan officials urged the US Congress “to exert its influence to ensure the restoration of a legitimate and stable government in Afghanistan, a government that is a true representative of its people,” the letter wrote.

The letter continued: “We will continue our endeavors to restore freedom in Afghanistan. This is a moral responsibility of the US to support Afghans who wish to restore a law-abiding and legitimate government.”

Among the prominent Afghan personalities who signed the letter sent to the US Congress are former acting Defense Minister Shahmahmood Miakhel, former Interior Minister Masood Andrabi, Member of Parliament and Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly Fauzia Kofi, former Chief of Army Staff Muhammad Sharif Yetwali, former Chief of Air Staff Fahim Ramin, and Sami Sadat, a special forces commander of the Afghan National Army.

The Media Line spoke with Miakhel, Afghanistan’s former acting defense minister, who spearheaded the letter.

“At the moment, the struggle for human rights, freedom, and inclusivity defines Afghanistan’s democracy,” Miakhel said. “The Taliban’s imposition of strict measures and limitations, particularly with regards to girls’ access to education, flagrantly breaches human rights and creates enormous impediments to the achievement of a democratic and inclusive society.”

He added that “it is on the record that following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, a series of significant meetings took place between US Intelligence officials and representatives of the Taliban in various locations, including Qatar and Dubai. The US is providing indirect support to Kabul in terms of humanitarian aid.”

“There have been concerns regarding the indirect support of humanitarian aid. Our information suggests that some of these resources inadvertently benefit the Taliban and other extremist groups,” the former defense minister said.

“We urge that to mitigate these risks, stringent monitoring and evaluation processes should be put in place to prevent the diversion of resources to illicit purposes,” he added. “The US should support an inclusive and legitimate government in Afghanistan, not an extremist group. … Without a stable and functioning government in Afghanistan, there is a risk of power vacuums, increased lawlessness, and the potential for extremist groups to exploit the situation. These factors can create an environment conducive to the spread of terrorism, and regional instability as well.”

Miakhel said that “efforts must be made to prevent the reemergence of safe havens for terror organizations, as seen in the past.”

Another former Afghan official who also signed the letter spoke with The Media Line on the condition of anonymity. He said, “It is not a distinct group with a specific objective. Almost everyone is from the Ashraf Ghani era and they all agreed on one point: Afghanistan needs a government that represents all schools of thought. The Taliban has repeatedly informed the international community that they will construct such a government, but they are purposefully failing to do so.”

The official went on to say that “several members of the organization, including himself, disagreed with some of the letter’s text but signed it in the wider national interest.”

Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based national security expert and a South Asian analyst, told The Media Line, “The Taliban would be a security partner for the US and would help the US to fight al-Qaida, ISIS-K, and other terrorist organizations.”

She added: “Whatever the nature of US-Taliban clandestine cooperation, it has not helped the local population, which, except for the enclaves loyal to the Taliban, continues to suffer a humanitarian crisis, or in particular to the women, who continue to deal with the social and economic impact of the restrictive laws based in the guardianship system.”

Tsukerman also said: “What is unfortunate, however, is that most of these signatories are connected to the previous government which has a bad reputation due to its extreme level of corruption, which arguably surpasses the Taliban, and therefore are disconnected from the people. So while this group airs legitimate grievances and concerns that are accurate regardless of the messenger, both the White House and the Afghan people are likely to ignore it precisely.”

She believes “the only thing that could change US policy in this regard is overwhelming evidence of the Taliban conspiring with other terrorist groups to attack US interests, or even some other organization that is ‘independently’ establishing its presence in Afghanistan, having attempted an attack on the US.”

Arash Yaqin, a former UN adviser for the Afghan Foreign Ministry and a national security expert, strictly criticized the signatories of the letter and told The Media Line, “They are elites who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, now have tried to manipulate the West to give them another chance to rule Afghanistan.”

Yaqin also said, “Signing a letter to the US Congress is the only failed attempt by former corrupt Afghan elites who are sidelined and now trying to come up with all types of accusations against the Biden Administration. … No doubt that few individuals on the list care about the future of the Afghan nation, but the majority are the ones who are directly responsible for the current outcome in Afghanistan.”

He added: “Residing in their luxury villas in Washington, London, or Ankara, they are shamelessly talking about poor Afghans, and posing themselves as the savior of Afghanistan, but what they did for the Afghan people, except looted billions of dollars of foreign aid and blessed their generations.”

He concluded by saying: “However, after realizing that neither the Biden Administration nor the EU policymakers nor the Taliban are interested in them, their last hope is to use a divided polarized US Congress. They are hoping to win the hearts and minds of Republicans who are trying to blame the Biden Administration for his hasty withdrawal decision from Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, US Senator Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized President Joe Biden for his unexpected Afghanistan withdrawal.

In a statement released on Friday, he said, “President Biden’s botched withdrawal created one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes.”

The statement continued, saying the Afghanistan withdrawal “has done grave damage to America’s reputation on the world stage, a topic that continues to impact American interests in strategic competition across the globe.”

Kamal Alam, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, told The Media Line: “The Afghan ex-pats political figures are completely cut off from the ground realities. Whilst they have some legitimate arguments, they had 20 years to fix Afghanistan’s problems and they failed.”

Alam added: “Though most but not all US policymakers and politicians despise the Taliban, no one wants or is interested in challenging the Taliban militarily. There is also a consensus amongst most humanitarian organizations that sanctions hurt the common Afghan and not the Taliban.”

“The US is already cooperating with the Taliban on security issues and the [signatories] group is concerned about de facto Taliban recognition,” he said. “There are no good options for Afghanistan, but the people shouldn’t suffer due to sanctions.”

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