‘Trust was gone’: Former Afghan official recounts his government’s collapse

Rahmat Gul/AP Photo
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  • Hamdullah Mohib
    Afghan politician and diplomat

Afghanistan’s government lost trust in the United States because of the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban and the Biden administration’s insistence on withdrawing its forces, a former Afghan official said Sunday in describing his government’s collapse earlier this year.

“Trust was gone. There was no trust,” Hamdullah Mohib said in describing the scene on Aug. 15, when Afghanistan’s leadership fled in a helicopter that flew at a low altitude so American forces wouldn’t realize they were leaving. Mohib said the U.S. had been “noncommittal“ about a possible evacuation of the Afghan leadership as Taliban forces advanced rapidly.

Speaking to host Margaret Brennan on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mohib also said the final collapse of the government of President Ashraf Ghani came much faster than expected. Mohib had been a national security adviser in Ghani’s government.

“We still thought the Taliban had at least two more weeks until the U.S. presence in Kabul [ended],” Mohib said of the chaos that final day in the nation’s capital. “We had several cities and provinces around Kabul that were still under Afghan government control. But by that morning, by 4 a.m. that morning, we had lost all of those provinces, plus a key district in Kabul.“

President Joe Biden condemned Afghanistan’s leadership for leaving when it did and also blamed it squarely for its humiliating defeat. “We gave them every tool they could need,” he said at the time, a sentiment echoed by many Americans who wondered what had become of two decades of military assistance and training.

Mohib told Brennan the decision was made to leave when it became clear that the military had largely melted away and the police had not shown up for work. “We had to make a decision that was right for Afghanistan,” Mohib said.

For his part, Mohib said the Afghan government expected more from the United States, but that his country was betrayed by the U.S. government negotiating with the Taliban independently.

“What happened was the rug was pulled under the Afghans’ feet,” he said, adding: “The decision to talk directly and engage the Taliban and make a deal with the Taliban that didn’t include the Afghan government was protested.”

That deal negotiated by the Trump administration in 2020 was designed to allow for the withdrawal of the last U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and was adhered to the Biden administration even as the inherent weakness of the Afghan government became apparent.

“We didn't read the writing on the wall. The writing on the wall was that a withdrawal will take place no matter what,” Mohib said.

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