From spy to political leader: 33 facts about Amrullah Saleh, the last man standing in Afghanistan

From spy to political leader: 33 facts about Amrullah Saleh, the last man standing in Afghanistan

Sunday, August 22, 2021 1:07 pm

Amrullah Saleh: Deputy to fleeing Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani: vows to resist Taliban take over of Afghanistan

Amrullah Saleh: Deputy to fleeing Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani: vows to resist Taliban take over of Afghanistan

By Nehru Odeh

He is a study in bravery. Before the Taliban took over Afghanistan and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, Amrullah Saleh was the Vice President.  But now that the Taliban has taken over the country, Saleh has refused to surrender.

Rather he has vowed to resist the Islamic group. Having relocated to Panjshir Valley in northern Kabul, the only province out of 34 not in Taliban control, he has declared himself the “legitimate caretaker President.” He has reached out to all leaders of Afghanistan to unify and fight the Taliban.

 His words: “Since President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, he has effectively left his responsibilities and position vacant, and I am currently the legitimate caretaker President of Afghanistan because I am inside the country.”

“I will never be under one ceiling with Taliban,” he once tweeted.

“I want to make it very clear that there are many factors why this situation happened. I am not ready to be part of the humiliation and shame that the foreign militaries have endured,” the Afghan leader said.

“I am standing up for my country and the war is not over,” Saleh added.

The war is not over? Still, how long Saleh is going to resist the Taliban remains to be seen.

Here are 33 facts about Saleh:

1. He was born 15 October 1972 in Panjshir in what was then the Kingdom of Afghanistan.

2. He is 48 years old.

3. He belongs to the Tajik ethnic group.

4. He was orphaned at a young age.

5. He personally suffered loss at the hands of the Taliban. His sister, Mariam, was tortured by Taliban fighters in 1996. Some reports say she was tortured to death. But others say she later escaped, fled Kabul with her family, and lived until 2016.  “My view of the Taliban changed forever because of what happened in 1996,” Saleh had written in a Time magazine editorial.

6. Saleh has become a target of assassination a number of times. During a 60 Minutes interview in the United States in December 2009, Saleh stated:    “Sure, and if they kill me, I have told my family and my friends not to complain about anything, because I have killed many of them with pride, so, I am a very, very legitimate target, very legitimate, because when I stand against them, the desire to stand against them is part of my blood. I believe they are wrong.”

7. On 28 July 2019, three militants entered Saleh’s office in Kabul after a suicide bomber blew himself up. At least 20 people were killed and 50 injured in the suicide bombing and gun battle at his office. Saleh was not injured in the attack. He lost many colleagues and 2 nephews in the attack,

8. On 9 September 2020, he was wounded by a roadside bomb attack in Kabul, in which ten people were killed. Fifteen civilians were wounded, including some of his bodyguards. The Taliban denied responsibility. Saleh posted a video on Facebook after the explosion with bandages on his left hand and burns to his face. He said he was traveling to his office with his son when the attack took place. There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing

9. In 1990, in order to avoid being conscripted into the Soviet-backed Afghan army, Saleh joined the opposition Mujahideen forces. He received military training in neighbouring Pakistan and fought under Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

10. His only mentor is Ahmad Shah Massoud and has vowed never to bow to the Taliban and stay the course on Massoud’s vision of Afghanistan.

11. He has been an avowed critic of the Pakistani government, which he has continuously accused of supporting the Taliban. ‘Without Pakistan support, Taliban would fade away in six months…’ he once said.

12. He also called the Taliban “worse than Khmer Rouge”, adding, “All their politburo are based in Pakistan and are not showing their faces. They can’t face the reality of new Afghanistan which is no longer buying the notion of armed struggle to solve political issues. Without Pakistan’s support, the Taliban would fade away in six months.”

13. He was a member of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance during the civil war that followed the 1992 ouster of Mohammed Najibullah, Afghanistan’s USSR-backed ruler since 1987..

14. In 1997, Saleh was appointed by Massoud to lead the United Front’s international liaison office at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he served as a coordinator for non-governmental (humanitarian) organizations and as a liaison partner for foreign intelligence agencies.

15. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Saleh participated in leading intelligence operations of the United Front on the ground during the toppling of the Taliban regime.

16. He became a key asset of the CIA and led intelligence operations of the United Front on the ground to topple the Taliban regime. This relationship paved the way for him to take on many important roles in the governments that were formed after the Taliban was ousted.

17. After the formation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in December 2004, Saleh was appointed as head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) by President Hamid Karzai. Saleh initiated structural reforms and helped rebuild the Afghan intelligence service.

18. Saleh and former interior minister Hanif Atmar were viewed by the international community as two of the most competent cabinet members in the Afghan government.

19. A western security expert told The Guardian that both men had a reputation for “clearing corruption within” their organs.

20. In 2005, Saleh engaged several NDS agents infiltrating the Pakistani tribal areas to search for bin Laden and other al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Several al-Qaeda members could be identified, but it was determined that Bin Laden was not in the area. In 2006.

21. He shared the intelligence with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf who angrily brushed off the claim, taking no action.

22. There is an instance when, during a meeting, he reportedly told then President of Pakistan, General Musharraf, that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, which led to the General walking out of the meeting.

23. On 6 June 2010, Saleh resigned from the NDS while Atmar resigned from his position as interior minister after a militant attack against the national peace jirga, although nobody had been killed or wounded and the attackers had been arrested.

24. Daoud Sultanzoi, a member of the Afghan parliament, said, he had observed that The resignation of Saleh and Atmar came amidst heavy disagreement between Hamid Karzai and Amrullah Saleh on how to proceed against the Taliban disagreement between Karzai on the one side and cabinet members such as Saleh and Atmar on the other side had been going on for a while.

25. In 2011, Saleh launched a peaceful campaign to warn that Hamid Karzai had lost conviction in the fight against the Taliban and was pursuing a compromise that could come at the cost of democracy, stability and human rights, especially women’s rights.

26. “My view is there must not be a deal with the Taliban. Ever…[T]he Taliban have no message, no vision except intimidation, spreading fear, bringing exclusion in the Afghan society, stopping development and destroying pluralism. … We all want to make peace, but we do not want to Talibanize Afghanistan,” he was once quoted as saying.

27. In 2004, three years after a US-led coalition toppled the Taliban regime, Saleh became the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, serving until 2010. Saleh was a critic of then-President Hamid Karzai’s softened stance on the Taliban and reliance on support from Pakistan, and consequently founded the Basej-e Milli, a political party aimed at opposing the Taliban.

28. Saleh consequently founded the Basej-e Milli (National Movement), also known as Afghanistan Green Trend, a political movement which has successfully established itself in Afghanistan.

29. President Ashraf Ghani appointed Saleh to become the new interior minister on 23 December 2018, in a major shake up in the government’s security positions.

30. On 19 January 2019, Saleh resigned as the Interior Minister to join Ashraf Ghani’s election team. Following Ghani’s re-election, Saleh was appointed as First Vice President of Afghanistan.

31. Following the fall of Kabul, Saleh’s office disputed rumours on 13 August that he was hiding in Tajikistan during the ongoing Taliban offensive. On 15 August, Saleh was erroneously reported to be among those who fled the country by plane along with President Ashraf Ghani. Later on the same day, Saleh stated on his Twitter page that he “will never be under one ceiling with Taliban”. He accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban

32. On 17 August, Amrullah Saleh surfaced with Ahmad Massoud, the son of the late legendary anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and former Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi in Panjshir Valley. He was claimed to be forming a resistance force against the Taliban.

33. On 17 August 2021, Saleh proclaimed himself the caretaker President of Afghanistan, in accordance with articles 60 and 67 of the Constitution of Afghanistan which stipulate that the First Vice President assumes the duties of the President in the absence of the President. He also criticized US President Joe Biden and NATO, declaring in a tweet that “It is futile to argue with @POTUS on Afg now. Let him digest it. We d Afgs must prove tht Afgh isn’t Vietnam & the Talibs aren’t even remotely like Vietcong. Unlike US/NATO we haven’t lost spirit & see enormous opportunities ahead. Useless caveats are finished. JOIN THE RESISTANCE.”  In a second tweet he wrote that “as per d constitution of Afg, in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP becomes the caretaker President. I am currently inside my country & am the legitimate care taker President. Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.”

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