Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Adela Raz, has lost her country and her faith in the US government – and her life’s work of liberating women and girls is in ruins. She shared her despair with “Axios on HBO” in her first TV interview since Kabul’s fall.
The big picture: Raz said bluntly that she did not think President Biden cared about the fate of Afghan women and girls. She also revealed new details to Axios, indicating that former President Ashraf Ghani’s secret escape was more deliberate than publicly known.
In a devastating moment, she suggested that she felt guilty for encouraging Afghan women to believe in a new future and serve with her in government, and for those she encouraged to stay in Afghanistan.
- “One of them was a young woman who was murdered. She was a human rights activist,” Raz said, crying.
Driver news: The interview was recorded last Monday at Raz’s office on the top floor of the Afghan embassy in Washington.
- She works there – in fact a refugee representing a leaderless exile government.
- She refuses to recognize the Taliban or leave her post – saying she still considers herself her country’s ambassador – but the Biden administration has refused to meet with her.
Plots: She has kept the embassy open with a skeleton staff and flags her country’s tri-colored flag in the courtyard instead of the Taliban’s whites.
- Raz was strangled as she looked out of her office window at the tri-colored flag. “That’s how I know I’m Afghan,” she said.
Why it’s important: Raz said she no longer trusts the US government and doubts that any Afghan will trust US policy for a long time.
- “If you’re talking about democracy – I’ll probably question it and laugh at it,” she said when asked if she sees America as the leader of the free world. “You were committed to building one in Afghanistan, and the people believed in it.”
- She criticized Biden’s refusal to renegotiate former President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban – a deal that had no protection for Afghan women after the United States withdrew.
- But she also told Axios in a separate phone interview that she fully trusts the American people and is deeply grateful for the sacrifices that U.S. military and civilians have made over the past 20 years in her country. She said she is devastated that these gains were not protected.
Raz said her own government failed on many levels, including Ghani’s leadership.
She said Afghan security forces relied too heavily on US technical expertise and air support and crumbled as the US withdrew after 20 years of funding and training.
She said Ghani – her former boss – owes Afghans an explanation for his “betrayal” by secretly fleeing the country and effectively ceding Kabul to the Taliban without a fight.
Looking back: Raz was 16 in 2002 when the Americans invaded Afghanistan and swept the Taliban from power. She said she remembers thinking, “This is the end of Afghanistan’s misery because the United States is the superpower. When it arrives, that’s it. That’s the end of it.”
- She went back to school, got scholarships to go to American universities, and in 2013 returned to Afghanistan to serve in leading government roles.
- She became Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the UN. Then in July, Ghani appointed her Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States. She moved with her two children to Washington.
- Her husband, Abdul Matin Bek, served as Ghani’s top assistant back in Kabul.
Raz spent his first month in Washington urges the Biden administration – publicly and privately – to provide stronger military support to the Afghan security services.
- Then, in a few weeks in early August, just a month after arriving in Washington, she lost her country and everything she had worked for.
- Raz told Axios that in the days before August 15, her husband told her he had noticed that Ghani had meetings with only two of his best helpers. He found the meetings unusually secretive.
- “I was very sarcastic,” Raz said. “I said, ‘Oh, they’re probably working on the evacuation plan.’ She was almost certainly right.
What’s next: Raz, 35, is now in an extraordinary situation.
- The State Department and the Pentagon canceled scheduled meetings with her in early September, she said, explaining the rejected requests. “By meeting me formally, they are likely to legitimize the position, and that is likely to disrupt the Taliban,” she said.
- Raz told Axios that she had contacted the Biden administration for guidance on the US position on the Afghan embassy in DC.
- A State Department spokeswoman responded: “Ambassador Adela Raz is the accredited representative of Afghanistan in the United States. A number of considerations include requests for meetings from any foreign ambassador. We are unable to comment on the details of the US diplomatic engagement.”
- “Given the change of leadership in Kabul, our focus in Afghanistan is on whether a future government is one we and the international community can work with.”
A group there have reached out to Raz is the Taliban. She said they were trying to get her and other ambassadors to join a Zoom call. She ignored the invitation.
- Raz told Axios that under no circumstances would she serve a Taliban government. She knows what it’s like to live under Taliban rules, and she feels “horrible” to think that there might never be another woman to represent her country abroad.
- “I would not be the last,” she said. “I had said yes to being the first, but not the last.”
📺 See: Ambassador Raz talks about President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.