Afghanistan’s former president said he had no choice but to abruptly leave Kabul as the Taliban approached and opposed a peaceful takeover agreement, denying the accounts of former Afghan and US officials.
Ashraf Ghani said Thursday an adviser had given him just a few minutes to decide to leave the capital, Kabul. He also denied widespread allegations that he left Afghanistan with millions of dollars in stolen money.
Ghani’s sudden and clandestine departure on August 15 left the city rudderless as US and NATO forces found themselves in the final stages of their chaotic retreat from the country after 20 years.
“On the morning of that day, I had no idea that I would be leaving in the late afternoon,” said Ghani BBC radio.
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His remarks contradicted other reports.
Former President Hamid Karzai told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this month that Ghani’s departure thwarted government negotiators, including himself and peace council chairman Abdullah Abdullah, from reaching an eleventh-hour deal with the Taliban to achieve who had pledged to stay out of the capital.
After calling the Bismillah Khan government’s defense minister, the interior minister, and the police chief and finding that everyone had fled the capital, Karzai said he had invited the Taliban to Kabul “to protect the population so that the country the city does not sink into chaos and the undesirable elements that would likely loot the country loot shops. “
But Ghani said in his radio interview with British General Sir Nick Carter, former Chief of Defense Staff, that he had fled “to prevent the destruction of Kabul” and claimed that two rival Taliban factions were invading the city and were ready to step in and fight a fierce struggle for control. There was no evidence of the Taliban’s entry of the rival factions to which Ghani was referring.
The insurgents, who had captured much of the country in the days before the advance in Kabul, when Afghan government forces melted or surrendered, quickly took control of the palace.
Yet the Taliban’s takeover was greeted with widespread fear and longing for many to flee their desperately poor homeland despite billions of international funds in the 20 years that US-backed governments were in power.
In the BBC interview, Ghani denied widespread allegations that he left Afghanistan with stolen money. The US Special Inspector for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, John Sopko, has been tasked with investigating these allegations.
After his national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib told him that his personal protection forces were unable to defend him, Ghani said he had chosen to leave. Mohib, who was “literally scared,” only gave him two minutes to decide whether to leave, Ghani said, insisting he wasn’t sure where he would be taken even after getting in the helicopter to take off had made ready.