Former vice president in Panjshir Valley claims he is Afghan president

Amrullah Saleh says he is now Afghanistan’s acting leader, according to the constitution

Amrullah Saleh speaks at the Afghan Presidential Palace in Kabul on August 4. AFP
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Amrullah Saleh, the former vice president of Afghanistan, has said he is part of the resistance force fighting the Taliban.

Based 30 kilometres north of Bagram airbase in the Panjshir valley, Mr Saleh, 48, said that according to the country’s constitution, he was now acting president.

He was the head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and joined the Cabinet of President Ashraf Ghani in 2017. In February 2020, Mr Saleh became the country’s vice president.

After the fall of Kabul and Mr Ghani's escape from the country, Mr Saleh moved to the Panjshir Valley, the only region not to have fallen to the Taliban.

“The president has fled and according to the constitution I am the acting president of the country," he told Sky News after the terrorist attack at Kabul airport.

Mr Saleh called on the West to keep supporting Afghanistan, saying it had an obligation, morally and legally, to stay engaged.

He said the West should acknowledge that he had not fled.

“I have not accepted that shame and that humiliation and that disgrace to leave my people in these difficult circumstances,” Mr Saleh said.

He said that the attack in Kabul was a “tiny fraction of the tragedy unfolding in my country because of the wrong political decision that was taken in Washington, disregarding the ground reality”.

Mr Saleh warned that keeping to the August 31 deadline for leaving Afghanistan would meaning leaving Afghans to their death.

When asked what his plan was, he said: “We have offered the Taliban to negotiate meaningfully or if they choose to fight we are willing to resist. People are supporting us.

“We have started a resistance and we have turned Panjshir into a sanctuary for the oppressed, for those who have no trust in the Taliban.

“If people have difficulty flying from Kabul airport our doors are open to them. We will treat them with honour and dignity, and if needs be we will defend them with our blood and our bones.

“So if Biden cannot evacuate all the people in danger by August 31, we invite all those people in danger, at risk of being killed or massacred by the Taliban, to take refuge in the Panjshir Valley.”

Updated: August 26, 2021, 8:18 PM