Ashraf Ghani tells the BBC about his departure from Kabul in the middle of the Taliban’s takeover

Afghanistan’s former president said he had no choice but to leave Kabul abruptly when the Taliban closed in and denied that there was an agreement on a peaceful takeover.

Former President Ashraf Ghani said in a BBC interview broadcast on Thursday that an adviser gave him only minutes to decide to leave the capital Kabul.

He also denied widespread allegations that he left Afghanistan with millions in stolen money.

Sir. Ghana’s sudden and secret departure on August 15 left the city at a loss as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years.

“In the morning of that day, I had no idea I was going to leave late in the afternoon,” Mr Ghani told BBC radio.

His remarks contradicted other accounts.

Former President Hamid Karzai told the Associated Press earlier this month that Mr Ghani’s departure thwarted the possibility for government negotiators to reach an 11-hour deal with the Taliban, which had pledged to stay out of the capital.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani raises his finger as he delivers a speech.
Ashraf Ghani said he was leaving “to prevent the destruction of Kabul”.(AP: Rahmat Gul)

Karzai said he invited the Taliban to Kabul “to protect the people so that the country, the city does not fall into chaos, and the unwanted elements that would likely plunder the country, plunder shops”.

But Mr Ghani said in a radio interview with British General Sir Nick Carter, former Chief of Defense Staff, that he fled “to prevent the destruction of Kabul”, claiming that two rival Taliban factions struck the city and were ready to go in and pay. a bitter struggle for control.

There was no evidence of the Taliban’s entry into the rival factions mentioned by Mr Ghani.

The rebels, who in the days leading up to the advance on Kabul had swept across most of the country as Afghan government forces melted away or surrendered, quickly took control of the palace.

According to humanitarian aid workers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they wanted to speak privately and who were there at the time, the Taliban moved to protect their connections.

Yet the Taliban’s takeover was met with widespread fear and a deep longing among many to flee their desperately poor homeland, despite receiving billions in international money during the 20 years the US-backed governments had been in power.

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Desperate civilians cling to the outside of an American plane as it leaves Kabul.

In the BBC interview, Mr Ghani denied widespread allegations that he left Afghanistan with a store of stolen money.

The U.S. Special Inspector for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, John Sopko, has been tasked with investigating these allegations.

Two minutes to decide

Successive Afghan governments, as well as independent foreign and Afghan entrepreneurs, have been accused of widespread corruption, with dozens of reports by Mr Sopko documenting the most horrific incidents.

Washington has spent $ 146 billion ($ 200 billion) on reconstruction in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, which had housed al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

US President Joe Biden will meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House in Washington on June 25.
The United States spent billions of dollars on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.(Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)

Yet, even before the rebels returned in August, the poverty level in Afghanistan was 54 percent.

Earlier this week, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an investigative reporting organization with 150 journalists in more than 30 countries, listed Mr Ghani among the world’s most corrupt leaders.

Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko was named the most corrupt, with Mr Ghani, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz among the finalists for the title of most corrupt.

After being told by his national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib that his personal protection force was unable to defend him, Mr Ghani said he decided to leave.

Sir. Mohib, who “was literally terrified,” gave him only two minutes to decide whether to leave, said Mr. Ghani and insisted he was not sure where he would be taken even after he was on the helicopter and ready to take off.

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Al-Jazeera broadcast live footage of Taliban fighters inside the Afghan presidential palace.

Sir. Ghani did not address the rapid and rapid collapse of the Afghan military in the weeks leading up to the Taliban’s takeover, but he blamed an agreement the United States had signed with the Taliban in 2020 for the possible collapse of his government.

This agreement set out the conditions for the final withdrawal of the remaining US and NATO forces, ending the United States’ longest war.

It also secured the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, which Mr Ghani said strengthened the rebel force.

AP

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