A number of of his shut political associates have surrendered to the Taliban with no battle or fled into exile. His military has all however collapsed and the warlords he was relying on have proved ineffectual or are bargaining for his or her lives.
Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, is extra remoted than ever, dealing with stress to step apart — and never simply from the Taliban. His dominion is shrinking by the day. He guidelines the capital, Kabul, two different cities within the north and east, and pockets within the inside.
But Mr. Ghani is stubbornly clinging to workplace.
In a quick recorded speech televised early Saturday afternoon, Mr. Ghani promised to “stop additional instability” however didn’t resign. With Taliban forces having captured Pul-i-Alam, one other provincial capital — this one solely 40 miles from Kabul — Mr. Ghani mentioned he had begun “intensive consultations at house and overseas” and that the “outcomes” would quickly be shared. He mentioned “remobilizing” Afghanistan’s protection forces was a precedence.
On Wednesday, he flew to one in every of his loyalist redoubts, the northern metropolis of Mazar-i-Sharif, in makes an attempt to rally pro-government forces. On Thursday, officers mentioned he spoke by cellphone with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. On Friday, he was mentioned to be main a nationwide safety assembly within the Kabul presidential palace.
The Afghan president’s choices seem restricted. He has little discernible assist at house or from his former overseas backers. Road demonstrations supporting his military shortly fizzled out.
Hundreds of his troopers are surrendering , deciding that Mr. Ghani is just not “value combating for,” Omar Zakhilwal, a former finance minister, tweeted Friday.
Removed from hinting at resignation, the president has solely urged that he wouldn’t run for re-election if the Taliban agreed to elections. Their battlefield rampage seems to have made the provide irrelevant. As his nation slips away and provincial capitals fall, Mr. Ghani and his advisers have mentioned little, typically even refusing to acknowledge the losses.
Even Mr. Ghani’s substantial corps of bodyguards, mentioned to quantity within the hundreds, poses a possible risk. Many are from villages now managed by the Taliban.
Main Afghanistan is a harmful enterprise. For greater than a century, most Afghan rulers have both been killed or died in exile, the Boston College anthropologist Thomas Barfield factors out.
Nonetheless, if — as appears more and more probably — Mr. Ghani is deposed by the Taliban, he can lay declare to a singular distinction. “This would be the first insurgency that has ever pushed a Kabul authorities from energy, that has additionally had the backing of a overseas energy,” mentioned Mr. Barfield.
The final time the Taliban seized management, in 1996, one former ruler wound up swinging from a lamppost in downtown Kabul and the opposite fled a whole bunch of miles to the north to control a postage-stamp rump state for 5 years.
Mr. Ghani reveals no indicators that the merciless classes of the previous sway him any greater than the unsure current and fearful future.
“He’s hunkering down,” mentioned Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan presidential adviser. “He’s refusing to confess the fact. The information is relayed to him by a filter.”
Mr. Farhadi added that “trusted lieutenants surrendered simply this morning,” referring to the current capitulations of governors Mr. Ghani appointed in Ghazni and Logar provinces,
“He’s in danger from his personal bodyguards,” mentioned Mr. Farhadi. “That is the way it occurs in Afghanistan. The final days of any chief are like this.”
Mr. Ghazni’s youthful finance minister, Khalid Payenda, fled the nation a number of days in the past.
Management traits that previously merely aggravated his fellow residents — Mr. Ghani’s refusal to delegate authority or take heed to others extra educated than himself, particularly on army issues — are actually proving deadly to the Afghan state.
“He’s remoted, confused, and deeply mistrustful of everybody,” mentioned Tamim Asey, a former deputy minister of protection. “He doesn’t know the right way to reverse this.”
Until a compromise may be reached, Mr. Asey mentioned, “I might say that Kabul may turn out to be a blood bathtub very quickly.”
The Taliban have mentioned that the combating won’t finish except Mr. Ghani is eliminated. Because the “polarizing determine” in Mr. Farhadi’s phrases, Mr. Ghani has “demeaned the Taliban time and time once more, saying, ‘You’re the stooges of the Pakistanis.’” In return, the Taliban see him because the “stooge” of the People.
Analysts place a lot of the blame for the present catastrophe on the top of Mr. Ghani, a former World Financial institution anthropologist and revealed writer with an outsized religion in his personal mind.
The People tried to assemble republican establishments on Afghan soil, however they proved to be a flimsy facade. As an alternative, Mr. Ghani customized energy to disastrous impact.
“He wanted the militias within the north and west,” but confirmed contempt for his or her leaders. On Friday, a key militia chief within the western metropolis of Herat, Ismail Khan, surrendered to the Taliban.
Mr. Ghani “didn’t take recommendation from anyone,” mentioned Mr. Barfield, of Boston College. “If he had delegated energy to the army, it may need been saved. Now, it’s a case of actuality biting.”