Former Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani denies in the first interview that he fled Kabul by the millions

But Ghani said in a radio interview with General Sir Nick Carter, former British defense chief, that he fled “to prevent the destruction of Kabul”, claiming that two rival Taliban factions struck down the city and were ready to enter and wage a bitter struggle for control. There was no evidence of the entry of the rival factions from the Taliban.

The rebels, who in the days before the advance to Kabul had swept over 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.

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul after discovering that Ghani had fled the country.

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul after discovering that Ghani had fled the country. Credit:AP

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

The U.S. Special Inspector for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, John Sopko, has been tasked with investigating allegations that Ghani left the country with a store of stolen money.

Successive Afghan governments, as well as independent foreign and Afghan entrepreneurs, have been accused of widespread corruption, with dozens of Sopko reports documenting the most serious 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. But even before the rebels returned in August, poverty levels in Afghanistan were 54 percent.

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Earlier this week, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an investigative reporting organization with 150 journalists in more than 30 countries, listed Ghani among the world’s most corrupt leaders. Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko was named the most corrupt, with Ghani, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz among the finalists for the title.

After being told by his national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib that his personal protection force was unable to defend him, Ghani said he decided to leave. Mohib, who was “literally terrified,” gave him only two minutes to decide whether to leave, Ghani said, insisting he was not sure where he would be taken, even after he was on the helicopter and was ready to take off.

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 provided for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, which Ghani said strengthened the rebel force.

AP

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