Afghanistan’s national security leader is reportedly laying low in London after fleeing his home country.
Ahmad Zia Saraj, the head of the National Directorate of Security in Afghanistan, appears to have escaped the Taliban.
Journalist Bashir Ahmad Qasani tweeted that a source had told him: “Zia Saraj, head of national security, has gone to London.”
There were mixed responses to this claim on Twitter – one account alleged, “he did not run away”, while another dubbed his actions “shameful”.
The news of Zia Saraj’s arrival followed claims from the deputy chief of Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation, Babur Farahmand, that he and Zia Saraj had boarded a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul on Monday, from Kabul.
According to The Associated Press, the two officials travelled along with second vice president Sarwar Danish, foreign minister Hanif Atmar and former foreign minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, after spending Sunday night inside a military compound.
A collection of nations, but particularly Turkey, reportedly helped the Afghan officials escape.
Up to 40 Afghan officials were reported to have arrived in Turkey on Monday.
It’s not known if any other officials are with Zia Saraj in London.
Their collective departure reveals just how quickly Afghanistan’s national structures, propped up and funded by Nato, fell.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled on Sunday as well, effectively handing control of the country over to the Taliban – in his absence, the militants declared victory over Afghanistan.
Ghani’s location was unknown for a short period of time, but he recently released a video explaining that he has escaped to the UAE.
He said it was “politics” rather than the military efforts which enabled the Taliban’s takeover, blaming both his own government and the “political failures of the international allies”.
Ghani also claimed he was “forced” to leave Afghanistan, but added that he does not have the “intention” of abandoning the country in the long-term.
He claimed: “I am currently in the Emirates to prevent bloodshed. And I am in consultations to return back to Afghanistan and continue the fight together to ensure justice, Afghan sovereignty, and to restore the actual Islamic values and national achievements.”
However, shortly after this clip was released the White House confirmed they no longer recognised Ghani as a figure of authority in Afghanistan, following his quick exit on sunday.
The escape of these two key senior officials provides a stark contrast to the suffering of the Afghan civilians who are still desperately trying to leave the country via Kabul Airport.
While the Nato forces have promised to evacuate their own troops and their own nationals – as well as Afghans who had helped western forces over the last 20 years – there have been widespread criticism towards the UK and its allies for not taking enough refugees.
Meanwhile, the Taliban is reportedly destroying the paperwork of those in Afghanistan who are legally allowed to leave the country.
The militants are said to be creating a list and hunting down those who aided their western enemies, too.