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Deposed vice president claims to be legitimate president and promises to fight Taliban

According to the Afghan Constitution, in the event of the absence, flight, resignation, or death of the President, the first vice president becomes the acting president. “I am currently in my country and am the legitimate acting President,” wrote Amrullah Saleh on his Twitter account.

The ousted vice president of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, declared himself the legitimate president of the country this Tuesday, due to the flight of the former head of state on Sunday, and promised not to submit to the Taliban.

The country’s former spy chief, an enemy of the Islamists who seized power Sunday in Kabul, has retreated to the last region not yet controlled by the Taliban: the Panchir Valley, northeast of the capital.

“According to the Afghan Constitution, in the event of the absence, flight, resignation or death of the President, the first vice president becomes the acting president. I am currently in my country and I am the legitimate acting President. I appeal to all leaders for support and consensus”, wrote this Tuesday Amrullah Saleh on his Twitter account.

“I will not disappoint the millions of people who listened to me. I will never be under the same roof as the Taliban,” he wrote on Sunday, just before he went into hiding.

The following day, images of Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of the famous commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, assassinated in 2001 by Al-Qaeda, in the Panchir Valley, on the edge of the Hindu Kush massif, were published on social networks.

Ahmad Massoud announced on Monday, in an article published by the French magazine La Règle du Jeu (The Rule of the Game), that he intended to resist the Taliban, saying he wanted to make his father’s fight, a resistance hero against the Soviet occupation, for freedom.

The two men appear to be laying the groundwork for what would be a rebellion against the new regime, as armed men begin to regroup in Panchir.

The valley, which is difficult to access, never fell into Taliban hands during the civil war of the 1990s, nor a decade earlier for the Soviets. “We will not allow the Taliban to enter Panchir and we will resist with all our strength,” a resident of the area, who preferred to remain anonymous, told AFP. For Saleh, a native of the Panchir region, this would be just the latest in a succession of battles against the Taliban.

Orphaned at an early age, the now-former vice president fought alongside Commander Massoud in the 1990s. He then served in his government before the Taliban overthrew him, taking over Kabul in 1996 and installing a fundamentalist regime, which lasted until the Americans expelled them from power in 2001.

Amrullah Saleh said at the time that the Taliban tortured his sister in an attempt to get him out of hiding. “My opinion of the Taliban has changed forever because of what happened in 1996,” the former vice president wrote last year in a Time magazine editorial.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, two days after the assassination of Commander Massoud, Saleh became an important source of information for the CIA. This led him, after the fall of the Taliban, to become head of the National Security Directorate (NDS), the Afghan secret service, between 2004 and 2010.

In this position, it has created a vast network of informers and spies among the Taliban, but also in Pakistan, where most of its leaders are based. This allowed him to gather evidence that the insurgents continued to receive support from the Pakistani army, which the Pakistani army denied.

His rise to the vice presidency, however, was not without some setbacks. In 2010, he was fired from his post as head of the NDS after a humiliating attack at a peace conference in Kabul.

Out of politics for a few years, he led the charge against the Taliban and Pakistan on social media, attacking them in almost daily tweets. In 2018, he was, for a few months, interior minister, after forging an alliance with President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan on Sunday.

He then became vice president after the 2019 presidential election. Saleh escaped several Taliban attacks, most recently in September 2020, when a car bomb exploded in front of the caravan he was traveling in, killing at least 10 people. Hours later, he reappeared in a video, his left hand covered in bandages, vowing to fight back. “We are going to continue our fight,” he said.

The Taliban conquered Kabul on Sunday, culminating an offensive that began in May, when the withdrawal of US military forces and NATO began. International forces have been in the country since 2001, as part of the offensive led by the United States against the extremist regime (1996-2001), which welcomed in its territory the leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, mainly responsible for the terrorist attacks of 11 of September 2001.

The seizure of the capital ends a 20-year foreign military presence in Afghanistan by the United States and its NATO allies, including Portugal. Faced with the brutality and radical interpretation of Islam that marked the previous regime, the Taliban have assured Afghans that “life, property and honor” will be respected and that women will be able to study and work.

Source: with Agencies

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