Former Afghan president denies fleeing the country with suitcases stuffed with millions of dollars

The former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has denied fleeing the country with suitcases stuffed with millions of dollars as the Taliban swept to power last month.

From the safety of his Dubai asylum, the 72-year-old said he ‘owed the Afghan people an explanation’ and apologised that it did not ‘end differently.’

The defeated leader fled in a cash-stuffed helicopter on August 15 as the Taliban stormed into Kabul, claiming he did so to avoid bloodshed on the streets.

But bloodshed swiftly followed, with the Taliban going door-to-door to hunt down and kill former government employees, while at the airport there was daily chaos, culminating in an Islamic State suicide bombing that left some 180 people dead. 

Ghani has been heavily criticised for the carnage which followed his hasty retreat, including by Joe Biden who said the Afghan government had chosen not to ‘fight for their country.’  

Answering his critics today, Ghani wrote in a statement: ‘I owe the Afghan people an explanation for leaving Kabul abruptly on August 15th after Taliban unexpectedly entered the city. 

Ashraf Ghani said he 'owed the Afghan people an explanation' and apologised that it did not 'end differently' (pictured in an earlier address to the Afghan people on August 18 after he left)

Ashraf Ghani said he ‘owed the Afghan people an explanation’ and apologised that it did not ‘end differently’ (pictured in an earlier address to the Afghan people on August 18 after he left)

A Taliban fighter looks down into a blood-soaked canal around the airport perimeter where an ISIS bomber blew himself up and killed more than 180 people amid chaos after the fall of Kabul

A Taliban fighter looks down into a blood-soaked canal around the airport perimeter where an ISIS bomber blew himself up and killed more than 180 people amid chaos after the fall of Kabul

A member of the Taliban Fateh fighter, a 'special forces' unit, patrol on a vehicle around Massoud square in Kabul on Wednesday

A member of the Taliban Fateh fighter, a ‘special forces’ unit, patrol on a vehicle around Massoud square in Kabul on Wednesday

‘I left at the urging of the palace security who advised me that to remain risked setting off the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s.

‘Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believe it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens.’

He also refuted the ‘baseless allegations’ that he had fled with millions in cash.

‘These charges are completely and categorically false,’ Ghani said. ‘Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president …

‘My wife and I have been scrupulous in our personal finances. I have publicly declared all of my assets. My wife’s family inheritance has also been disclosed and remains listed in her home country of Lebanon.

‘I welcome an official audit or financial investigation under UN auspices or any other appropriate independent body to prove the veracity of my statements here.’

At the time Ghani fled, the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, Mohammad Zahir Agbar, claimed that the president had made off with $169 million.

This was corroborated by the Russian embassy in Kabul, whose spokesman said: ‘Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.’ 

After Ghani left the country, the security situation rapidly deteriorated with Kabul airport becoming the scene of utter desperation as men clung onto the fuselages of USAF jets as they took off from the runway.

Taliban fighters controlled checkpoints to the airport and carried out beatings on those trying to leave, adding to the pandemonium for the US and British troops at the perimeter trying to keep order.

Their reasons for wishing to flee are only too plain to see today as the Taliban has ordered all women to remain indoors and has only just managed to cobble together a caretaker government as the country stands on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster.

The UN has warned that basic services have stopped functioning and of dire food shortages.

Ghani apologised to the Afghan people for leaving the country, although this was qualified by his referring to the challenges he faced in a country rife with corruption.

‘I inherited a monster that could not easily or quickly be defeated,’ he said.

‘I offer my profound appreciation and respect for the sacrifice of all Afghans, especially our Afghan soldiers and their families, through the last forty years.

‘It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors — without ensuring stability and prosperity.

‘I apologize to the Afghan people that I could not make it end differently. My commitment to the Afghan people has never wavered and will guide me for the rest of my life.’ 

Members of the Taliban Fateh fighter, a 'special forces' unit, stand guard outside the former US embassy in Afghanistan displaying a Taliban flag on Wednesday

Members of the Taliban Fateh fighter, a ‘special forces’ unit, stand guard outside the former US embassy in Afghanistan displaying a Taliban flag on Wednesday

Full statement by Ashraf Ghani, September 8 

I owe the Afghan people an explanation for leaving Kabul abruptly on August 15th after Taliban unexpectedly entered the city.

I left at the urging of the palace security who advised me that to remain risked setting off the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s.

Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens.

I have devoted 20 years of my life to helping the Afghan people work toward building a democratic, prosperous, and sovereign state — it was never my intent to abandon the people or that vision.

Now is not the moment for a long assessment of the events leading up to my departure I will address them in detail in the near future.

But I must now address baseless allegations that as I left Kabul I took with me millions of dollars belonging to the Afghan people.

These charges are completely and categorically false.

Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president.

I inherited a monster that could not easily or quickly be defeated.

My wife and I have been scrupulous in our personal finances.

I have publicly declared all of my assets.

My wife’s family inheritance has also been disclosed and remains listed in her home country of Lebanon.

I welcome an official audit or financial investigation under UN auspices or any other appropriate independent body to prove the veracity of my statements here.

My close aides are ready to submit their finances to public audit, and I would encourage and urge other former senior officials and political figures to do the same.

Throughout my life, I have firmly believed that the formula of a democratic republic was the only way forward for a sovereign, peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan.

Throughout my service to my country, the boundaries of my actions have always been defined and guided by the 2004 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

It provides the platforms for dialogue where our differences can be managed through give and take and persuasion, and where the acceptance of a common vision for the future can be defined and embraced.

Our Afghan tradition of Jirga and Shura is deeply egalitarian and participatory and can provide a platform for peaceful outcomes for the country moving forward.

I offer my profound appreciation and respect for the sacrifice of all Afghans, especially our Afghan soldiers and their families, through the last forty years.

It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors — without ensuring stability and prosperity.

I apologize to the Afghan people that I could not make it end differently.

My commitment to the Afghan people has never wavered and will guide me for the rest of my life. 

source: dailymail.co.uk