Fmr top Afghan adviser did not believe US would exit so quickly, thought 'the last two decades mattered'

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The former national security adviser for Afghanistan criticized the Biden administration’s withdrawal of the country, saying that he did not realize that the U.S. was going to completely withdraw no matter the situation on the ground, while the Taliban was poised to take over.

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as Taliban fighters entered the city in August, had pushed for elections to hand over power because “he was being assured in every meeting, in every statement that the international community wants to see a democratic Afghanistan, a sovereign Afghanistan, an Afghanistan that’s at peace with itself and its neighbors,” Hamdullah Mohib, Ghani’s former national security adviser, told CBS’ “Face The Nation.” 

“We didn’t read the writing on the wall,” Mohib said. “The writing on the wall was a withdrawal will take place no matter what. We thought that the preservation of the last 20 years, the last two decades mattered. And that’s where we misunderstood.” 

“We should have understood that the United States has made its decision and would withdraw under any circumstances,” Mohib added. “I felt that our partners, the United States included, believed in a democratic Afghanistan, in a place where we were going to preserve the gains of the last 20 years. I thought those gains meant something.” 

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2021, in Washington. 
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Mohib, who was one of Ghani’s closest aides, said he would have wanted the U.S. secretary of state, the national security adviser or some other high-ranking U.S. official to have come to Afghanistan to spend a day or two explaining to Ghani and other leaders what the U.S. intended to do. 

“This is a mission where we both shed blood together – made tremendous amount of sacrifices and is worthy of protection,” Mohib said.

Ghani and his team fled Kabul on helicopters on Aug. 15. Mohib confirmed reports that they flew at low altitude to avoid American planes – but denied taking any cash. 

“Trust was gone,” Mohib said. “There was no trust.”

Mohib told host Margaret Brennan that “we just took ourselves.” He said many team members did not have a change of clothes, and they had to buy even Ghani a new change of clothes once they arrived in Termez, Uzbekistan. Ghani later sought asylum in the United Arab Emirates.  

“We had to make a decision that was right for Afghanistan,” Mohib said. “The decision to leave was a very last-minute decision. In other president trips, there would be a lot more resources that would support a trip. We didn’t even carry anything” 

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