Afghanistan’s vice president has claimed that he is now the country’s “legitimate care taker president” after Ashraf Ghani fled in the face of the Taliban offensive on Kabul – and vowed that he would not bow to the city’s new Islamist rulers.
With Mr Ghani’s whereabouts still unconfirmed, Amrullah Saleh took to Twitter citing the Afghan constitution as evidence he should now be considered the country’s leader.
Up to this point, Afghan leaders, including former president Hamid Karzai and peace council chief Abdullah Abdullah, have been negotiating with the Taliban since the fall of Kabul.
Mr Saleh said he should assume the role as he was still inside Afghanistan and said he would be contacting other leaders to win their backing.
He wrote: “As per d constitution of Afg, in absence, escape, resignation or death of the President the FVP [first vice president] becomes the caretaker President. I am currently inside my country & am the legitimate care taker President. Am reaching out to all leaders to secure their support & consensus.”
In an earlier tweet, he urged his followers to “join the resistance” and said there were “enormous opportunities ahead”.
He wrote: “It is futile to argue with @POTUS on Afg now. Let him digest it. We d Afgs must prove tht Afgh isn’t Vietnam & the Talibs aren’t even remotely like Vietcong. Unlike US/NATO we hvn’t lost spirit & see enormous oprtnities ahead. Useless caveats are finished. JOIN THE RESISTANCE.”
Mr Saleh, whose exact whereabouts are unknown, also said that he would “under no circumstances bow” to “the Talib terrorists”.
He said he would “never betray” Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance who was assassinated by two al Qaeda operatives just before the 9/11 attacks on the US.
His comments came hours before the Taliban held their first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring they wanted peaceful relations with other Afghan factions and foreign nations.
“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said.