August 26, 2021
The following is the transcript of an address by Amrullah Saleh, acting President of Afghanistan, to Canadians. The recording by Saleh was provided exclusively to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Please check against delivery.
For context, this address was recorded shortly before the August 26 terrorist attacks outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Dear Canadians. Greetings to all of you.
My name is Amrullah Saleh. I am the acting president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I am sending you this message from inside Afghanistan.
Let me in the beginning thank all Canadians – the taxpayers, the military, the diplomats, the aid workers, the journalists, millions of well-wishers – for your assistance, for your cooperation, for your generosity over the past 20 years.
Your assistance brought change to the lives of millions of Afghans. And we all remain grateful.
I’m not reading a message, a written message. I am speaking to you from the centre of my heart. And my words of gratitude also come to you from the centre of my heart.
I am sure you are seeing the images emerging from my country. Particularly images of Kabul airport. People try desperately to flee.
But Kabul airport shows the tiniest fraction of a tragedy, of a disaster, of a fiasco, of an historic humiliation, of an historic shame – in front of our eyes.
What led to this situation? Which factors contributed to this collapse? And why? These are relevant questions, which we all need to reflect. But at this particular moment, the purpose of my message to you is not sharing with you that reflection. The purpose of my message is – what can we do today to stop it?
Afghanistan is not dead, it’s wounded.
Freedom is not dead, it’s wounded.
Liberty is not dead, it’s wounded.
Afghanistan is savable. The Afghan cause is not lost. Different tools, different strategies, different policies, are needed to reverse the situation.
I am not asking for the re-engagement of Western militaries. I am not requesting the militaries to return back. No, that’s not the purpose of this message.
The purpose of this message is to tell you: It is not possible, it is not doable, to evacuate over 35 million people whose lives are in danger, who are facing hopelessness, who are facing darkness, who see no future with the Taliban.
But not all Afghans want to just leave it and let the Taliban to take it. We are standing. I am an example, but not all of the resistance.
There are many Afghans, millions of Afghans, who want to put up a resistance by their pens, by their voice. By putting a civil struggle or by putting an armed resistance; that’s what we are doing.
The purpose of our resistance is to ensure pluralism is not crushed in my country.
The purpose of our resistance is to allow women and girls to have access, the right to access, education, health, and work. We don’t want women to become shadows. We don’t want women to lose their identity. We don’t want women to be annexes, without name, to the men. We want them to be individuals, in their own right.
We are standing for pluralism. We are standing for the dignity of humankind. We are standing for the beauty of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan will not become Talibanistan.
They are our many factors which contributed to the collapse, to the current situation as you are seeing it. But if we take the right action, if we adopt the right policies, if we use the right tools, this can be reversed.
One, Taliban were not and are not alone in doing this to the Afghan people. They are being assisted by the Pakistan Army, by the Pakistani intelligence establishment.
A public acknowledgement of this harsh and brutal fact will help. It will put Pakistan under pressure. The global powers and the countries in the United Nations should publicly acknowledge this. Or, without putting pressure on Pakistan, it will be a shame to endure this humiliation and defeat without acknowledging who brought it.
We should show bravery, we should show courage and we should not sink into cowardice.
Two, please provide moral, political, and if possible, material assistance to the Afghans who are not willing to escape, who want to own their country, who want to own their very beautiful country. A country which has mountains, forests, deserts, rivers, cities. And it’s a beautiful country. We should not let this beautiful country be totally controlled, dominated by an oppressive regime/group with very clear links to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region and beyond.
Three, you may think if it didn’t work for 20 years, how will it work now? In the last 20 years, not necessarily the Afghan advice was taken into consideration. There were many players outside our control. There were many actors who were not listening to us. And let us remember, the current disaster is not because of the failure of our militaries, intelligence services, or diplomatic circles. The current failure is a result of a wrong political decision, of wrong political judgment, of political misjudgment.
Let us remain thankful to the Afghan military forces, to all of the militaries from the Western nations who came here, served, and some of them paid the ultimate sacrifice. A lot of Afghans, hundreds of thousands of Afghans, paid the ultimate sacrifice. Let us honour those sacrifices. Let’s honour all those who lost their lives for a noble cause. We should be brave enough. We should be brave enough to safeguard the gains, and it is doable.
Lastly, while a lot of people try to scapegoat Afghans, saying they didn’t fight for their country, that is absolutely wrong, baseless, and ridiculous. The Afghans did put up a fight, but wrong policies, wrong strategies, by a few, in the most powerful capitals, led to this disaster.
I wish the president of my country stayed here with his people, and if necessary, pay the ultimate sacrifice. We always preach to the Afghan people that when the moment comes and the soil calls on us to be ready for a sacrifice, to pay the ultimate sacrifice, we will be ready. I know a lot of Afghans didn’t embrace this reality and escaped. I am not one of them. Millions and millions of Afghans aren’t going to flee, they want to stay.
I want you, generous Canadians, kind Canadians, to stay with the majority of the people. The majority want to hold. The majority want to bring a change. It’s a matter of time.
Afghanistan is not going to become Talibanistan; it will remain a pluralistic state, country. And you stand with pluralism. Provide moral support, political support, and if you can, material support. Let’s not abandon the Afghan girls and women. Let’s assist them to still have the voice, the right to go to school, to go to hospital, to travel, and to work.
Taliban are a group. Let’s force them, let’s force their backers, to engage in meaningful negotiations for political settlement. Let’s force them not to mistreat the Afghan women. Let’s force them not to mistreat civil society organizations, NGOs, and others who are still engaged to safeguard humanity, to safeguard the rights of the ordinary Afghan people.
Once again, I am very hopeful, I’m very optimistic that things will change. It is difficult. I am operating under enormous difficulties. But in the meantime, we are in the centre of history. We are in the making of history. The solution is not abandonment. The solution is not losing hope. The solution is not surrendering to darkness. The solution is standing tall, believing that no force, no force on earth, can and should be allowed to subdue humanity, to crush it.
Terrorists will not be able to prevail. They have no strategy for governance. They will fail. Let us contribute and have the honour and pride of contributing to their failure and to their defeat. It is doable.
I want to end my message to you by quoting Rumi, the universal son of Afghanistan.
Nine centuries ago, he said, “In this land, in this land and this pure farm. Let’s sow nothing but seeds of love and compassion.”
Thank you very much.
Amrullah Saleh is the Acting President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.