Former President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani resurfaced in a video posted to his Facebook profile late Wednesday confirming he is currently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after fleeing the Taliban and claiming reports he stole $169 million on the way out were “completely baseless.”
Ghani alarmingly admitted that he left confidential government documents behind, which presumably are now in the hands of the Taliban. He did not elaborate on the nature of the documents.
Ghani’s last public appearance occurred on Saturday night as Taliban jihadists surrounded Kabul, the national capital. In a pre-recorded televised message, Ghani told the nation that he was working to rebuild the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and he had committed to ensuring stability for the country.
“Under the current situation, remobilizing of the security and defense forces is our top priority and required measures are underway for this purpose,” Ghani said. He added that he had “started widespread consultations within and outside the government, with political leaders and international partners and [would] soon share the results with the people.”
Less than 24 hours later, reports surfaced that he had fled.
Ghani’s departure prompted the Taliban’s entry into the city – which Taliban spokespeople asserted was necessary due to Ghani’s “incompetent” government abandoning all policing of the capital – and a formal declaration of victory on Sunday night. Ghani’s whereabouts remained unknown until Wednesday, when the UAE government confirmed that it had allowed Ghani to enter and stay in the country on “humanitarian” grounds.
Afghanistan’s envoy to Tajikistan under Ghani, Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, claimed on Wednesday that Ghani stole $169 million from government coffers when he left and urged Interpol to help arrest the now-former president. Aghbar added detail to statements from Russian diplomats earlier in the week who had accused Ghani of leaving with four cars and a helicopter so full of cash that the money did not all fit on the aircraft.
Ghani denied the allegations in the video posted on Thursday and insisted he only left to prevent the Taliban from assassinating him and granting them a historic, and bloody, iconic victory.
Staying in the country, he insisted, would have turned it into “another Yemen or Syria,” both nations currently embroiled in civil wars.
“Minutes after I was forced to leave Kabul, there were a number of people who entered the presidential palace who could not even speak our national languages,” Ghani claimed, according to a translation by Qatari outlet al-Jazeera (Qatar has for years hosted the Taliban’s “political office”). “They were looking to find me and what had happened 25 years ago in Afghanistan was going to take place again and that was something that needed to be avoided, a shameful development like that.”
Ghani was referring to the assassination of former President Mohammad Najibullah.
“I had to leave Afghanistan in order to prevent bloodshed in order to make sure that a huge disaster is prevented,” Ghani insisted.
He went on to urge Afghans not to believe “that your president sold you out and fled for his advantage and to save his own life,” immediately after confirming he left the country to save his own life. He also denied allegations that he took millions of dollars with him out of the country. In the process, he admitted that he left confidential information in the presidential palace that the Taliban likely now had access to.
“The way I left Afganistan was such that I had to leave my books, which actually are my main assets. I had to,” he said. “There were some documents, confidential documents, that actually, unfortunately, were left there and they’re now in the hands of others.”
“I did not take anything with me,” Ghani repeated, claiming to be the target of a “political assassination” and calling allegations he stole money “completely baseless,” urging reporters to look at customs documents that would presumably prove he did not take any untoward wealth.
The former president admitted that the Taliban takeover of the country was “a failure on our part,” meaning his U.S.-backed government, but also called it a “failure” on the part of the Taliban, which has effusively celebrated the outcome of the past week’s events.
He concluded vowing to continue efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, without elaborating.
Taliban jihadists appear to have full control of the country but have admitted they need some time to build a functional government out of their radical Islamic terrorist association. They have asserted that the new Afghanistan would not be a democracy but “sharia law and that is it.” That latest assertion appears to contradict Taliban promises that it would build an “open, inclusive” government in the past week.
Ghani’s departure has heralded in the return of his predecessor, former President Hamid Karzai, to the forefront of Afghan politics. Karzai has built a coalition “council” he claims will assist the Taliban in ordinary government functions. The Taliban appears receptive, as its leaders met with Karzai, former Ghani top negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – also known as the “Butcher of Kabul” – on Wednesday.