Some senior US officials on Monday reportedly left a meeting of NATO ambassadors at the Presidential Palace when they noticed that Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib was also present at the event, sources from within and outside the government said on Tuesday, days after a senior US diplomat told President Ashraf Ghani that US officials will no longer deal with Mohib.
Mohib’s remarks on US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s peace efforts met with many reactions from Afghan politicians and some senior government officials who called the remarks “sentimental”.
Mohib did not directly respond to criticisms against him, but lately, he said that patriotism is a priority for him.
Critics on Tuesday said that the reported act by the US officials to quit the meeting shows that Afghan officials should remain curious about their remarks on issues which are related to the national interests of the country.
“I think they are treating the national interests of the country like ‘children’. Our country’s national interests require our relationship with the world and we should move these ties forward with the world in a wise way and we cannot sacrifice these ties for the sake of one person. I think the president is acting against the national interests of the country and harms these interests,” said political analyst Esmatullah Qane.
The Presidential Palace and Mohib’s office have not confirmed such a meeting.
“The ideas of Mr. Mohib are rooted to the issues that exist within the Presidential Palace. Whatever is related to the meeting of the president with the NATO ambassadors, I think this goes back to the approach of President (Ashraf Ghani) that he wants Mohib to remain as his national security advisor and this could further deteriorate tensions between the US and Afghanistan,” said Mahdi Afzali, a pollical expert.
However, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who met US Ambassador to Kabul John Bass in his office on Tuesday said in a tweet that Afghanistan and the United States have strong relations which are based on common interests and shared values.
“Afghan-US relations are rock-solid, based on long-term common interests and shared values. Great to see Ambassador Bass US Ambassador to Kabul in our first meeting of the new year in Afghanistan and reaffirm strong mutual commitment to our relations in the year ahead and beyond,” Abdullah tweeted.
Origin of the Rift
Mohib in a Washington DC news conference on March 14 accused the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad of “delegitimizing” the Kabul government by excluding it from peace negotiations with the Taliban and acting like a “viceroy”. He also said that the US has created an information vacuum regarding the peace talks with the Taliban.
According to the Reuters report, the day after Mohib made his comments, David Hale -- the US undersecretary of state for political affairs -- told Ghani by phone that Mohib would no longer be received in Washington and that US civilian and military officials would not do business with him.
“Hale called Ghani and told him that Mohib is no longer welcome in Washington DC. The US will not deal with him in Kabul or in Washington DC anymore,” said a former senior Afghan official who requested anonymity, according to Reuters report.
The former official said he saw the move as an effort to pressure Ghani to fire Mohib.
The remarks by the National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib on the peace efforts by the US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad met with more reactions, but some analysts supported his stance.
Later on, reports surfaced in media that the US summoned Mohib hours after he criticized US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for bypassing the elected government of Afghanistan in their direct peace talks with the Taliban.
“Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale summoned Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib today to reject the public comments attributed to National Security Advisor Mohib criticizing the US approach to reconciliation,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said after the meeting the between the two officials.
He said that Khalilzad is keeping the “duly elected” Afghan government in dark and that in the latest round of talks in Doha, they were humiliated and made to wait in a hotel lobby.