Who is Ali Ahmad Jalali, Afghanistan's possible interim leader?

The academic, retired army colonel and former interior minister has been critical of Afghanistan's recent leaders

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali. AFP
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More than 15 years after his last stint in Afghanistan's government, former interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali is reportedly being proposed as the country's interim leader after the Taliban's capture of the capital triggered President Ashraf Ghani's departure.

Mr Jalali's name was reportedly put forward in secret meetings at the presidential palace as the insurgents surrounded Kabul on Sunday after a sweeping 10-day offensive that gave them control over most of the country.

Two days earlier, Mr Jalali, an academic and retired army colonel based in the US, criticised Afghanistan's leadership and the state of its army.

“Poor leadership, lack of logistical sustainability, and absence of operational and tactical co-ordination has taken a heavy toll on the lives and reputation of the dedicated Afghan soldiers,” he wrote.

During a 2011 lecture at the UAE's Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, Mr Jalali made a similar argument when Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president at the time, set up a High Peace Council to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban.

“No amount of military power – foreign or domestic – in Afghanistan will produce adequate gains unless the Afghan government improves its capacity to control its territory, win the trust of the people, and prevent infiltration and subversion from abroad,” Mr Jalali said.

US-trained and educated, Mr Jalali was appointed interior minister in 2003 and served in Mr Karzai's transitional government for two years before resigning for what he said were personal reasons.

During his tenure, Mr Jalali was actively involved in reaching a political settlement with the Taliban. Efforts to strike a deal fell through when, Mr Jalali said, Mr Karzai failed to respond to an offer being made by the insurgents.

After his brief political career, Mr Jalali left Afghanistan to become a professor at the Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies at the National Defence University in Washington.

Although supportive of a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, Mr Jalali has repeatedly pushed back against the Taliban's insurgency.

In a November tweet, he also claimed the US troop withdrawal announced by Donald Trump would send a "strategic message" to the Taliban, which would "complicate" the talks taking place between the government and the rebels at the time.

Updated: August 16, 2021, 9:19 AM