The world of Amrullah Saleh has come full circle. As the Taliban retake Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh is where he started from – in Panjshir as part of the resistance movement.
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Amrullah Saleh, the First Vice President of Afghanistan, has staked claim to the highest office after Ashraf Ghani fled the country. While Kabul has been taken over by the Taliban, resistance is being mobilized in Panjshir, the only province, out of 34, not under the Taliban control.
Panjshir Resistance, also known as the ‘Second Resistance’ of the ‘National Resistance Front of Afghanistan’ is a coming together of former Northern Alliance members and other anti-Taliban leaders, to fight the onslaught of the Taliban, under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud (son of slain leader Ahmad Shah Massoud) and Acting President Amrullah Saleh.
On August 17 2021, Amrullah Saleh declared himself as the Acting President of the country citing provisions of the Constitution of Afghanistan – a constitution that the Taliban do not acknowledge.
In an audio message, Amrullah Saleh said, “As per the constitution of Afghanistan, if the President is absent or he resigns and he becomes incapable of running his duties, the First Vice President automatically becomes the legitimate caretaker President.”
Amrullah Saleh added, “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,”
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Amrullah Saleh further reached out to all leaders of Afghanistan to unify and fight the Taliban.
“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.
WHO IS AMRULLAH SALEH?
Born in October 1972 in Panjshir into a family of Tajik ethnic group, Amrullah Saleh was orphaned at a young age. Raised in the heart of where the resistance began under the talked leader of the resistance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, he joined the movement at a young age.
Amrullah Saleh personally suffered loss at the hands of the Taliban.
According to reports, Saleh’s sister was tortured to death by Taliban fighters in 1996. “My view of the Taliban changed forever because of what happened in 1996,” Saleh had written in a Time magazine editorial.
He fought alongside his leader and as part of the Northern Alliance to take down the Taliban.
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.
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AMRULLAH SALEH – THE SPY
Amrullah continued to be part of the Northern Alliance resistance till the 9/11 attack in the US and the entry of America in the Afghan war.
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.
In 2004, he became head of the newly formed Afghanistan intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate (NDS).
These were the years when he built a very strong spy network to gather intelligence against the Taliban and all other terror networks that were supporting the Taliban within Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan.
His hatred and dislike for Pakistan grew exponentially in the years that he followed these terror groups and found the support they received from the Pakistani military establishment.
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.
Saleh initiated structural reforms and helped rebuild the Afghan intelligence service. His men infiltrated the Taliban and got minute details of the organization’s operations – the leaders, the commanders, their families, homes, contacts, source of income.
This helped the Afghan government contain the Taliban, but difficulty always arose with the support they had from across the border.
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FROM A SPY TO A POLITICAL LEADER
On June 6, 2010, Saleh resigned from the NDS after a militant attack against the National Peace Jirga. At a press conference, Saleh told reporters he had submitted his resignation as general director of National Security because he had lost Karzai’s trust as a result of the attack.
But, there was a sense that he was disillusioned with the Karzai regime.
While he wanted to remain relevant, it couldn’t be within the current dispensation. There were reports of the Taliban approaching Karzai for talks, but Saleh warned them against it. His intelligence was that this was a trap. But, the talks took place nevertheless. That was the beginning of a breach of trust.
In 2011, Saleh launched a peaceful campaign against Hamid Karzai and became a harsh critic of the President’s policies, particularly in dealing with the security situation, and even accused him of corruption.
Subsequently, he founded the Basij-e Milli (National Movement), also known as Afghanistan Green Trend, a political movement which led to his entry into the political circuit.
He joined hands with Ashraf Ghani.
In September 2014, Ghani first came to power and in December he appointed Saleh as the Interior Minister.
On January 19, 2019, Saleh resigned as Interior Minister to start campaigning for elections which were due in September. With Ashraf Ghani’s re-election, Saleh was appointed as First Vice President of Afghanistan.
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FROM LEADER TO FIGHTER
The world of Saleh has come full circle. Today he is where he started from – in Panjshir as part of the resistance movement.
His only mentor is Ahmad Shah Massoud and he has vowed never to bow to the Taliban and stay the course on Massoud’s vision of Afghanistan.