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Afghan VP claims presidency, vows to fight on

18 Aug, 2021
Amrullah Saleh said that it was "futile" to argue with US President Joe Biden, who has decided to pull out US forces. Reuters
Amrullah Saleh said that it was "futile" to argue with US President Joe Biden, who has decided to pull out US forces. Reuters

Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Tuesday he was in Afghanistan and the "legitimate caretaker president" after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban insurgents took the capital Kabul.

Saleh told a security meeting chaired by Ghani last week that he was proud of the armed forces and the government would do all it could to strengthen resistance to the Taliban.

But the country fell to the Taliban in days, rather than the months foreseen by US intelligence.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Saleh said that it was "futile" to argue with US President Joe Biden, who has decided to pull out US forces.

He called on Afghans to show that Afghanistan "isn't Vietnam & the Talibs aren't even remotely like Vietcong".

A video of desperate Afghans trying to clamber on to a US military plane as it was about to take off bore evoked a photograph in 1975 of people trying to get on a helicopter on a roof in Saigon during the withdrawal from Vietnam.

Saleh said that unlike the United States and NATO "we haven't lost spirit & see enormous opportunities ahead. Useless caveats are finished JOIN THE RESISTANCE."

Saleh, whose whereabouts were unknown, said that he would never "under no circumstances bow" to "the Talib terrorists." He said he would "never betray" Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance who was assassinated by two al Qaeda operatives just before the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Taliban also held their first official news briefing on Tuesday since the group's lightning seizure of Kabul. They said Taliban wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, came as the United States and Western allies resumed evacuating diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans thronged the runway.

Meanwhile, Mullah Baradar, the chief of the Taliban’s political office, has arrived in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province along with a delegation, the group’s spokesperson said in a tweet.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, now heads its political office and is part of the negotiating team that the group has in Doha, where talks on a ceasefire had been underway.

Baradar, reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted commanders, was captured in 2010 by security forces in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and released in 2018.