A Year After Taliban Takeover, Ex-Prez Ashraf Ghani Reveals Why He Fled Afghanistan

Ashraf Ghani, former Afghanistan president, said he was the last man at the presidential palace after his guards fled and claimed that one of his cooks was offered $100,000 to poison him.

By Aalok Sensharma
Mon, 15 Aug 2022 11:39 AM IST
Minute Read
A Year After Taliban Takeover, Ex-Prez Ashraf Ghani Reveals Why He Fled Afghanistan
Former Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani (Photo: Reuters)

Ashraf Ghani's decision to flee Afghanistan following the rise of the Taliban last year might have irked many, but the former Afghan President his "split-second" decision, saying he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrendering to the insurgents.

Speaking to CNN on the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul, Ghani said he was the last man at the presidential palace after his guards fled and claimed that one of his cooks was offered $100,000 to poison him.

"The reason I left was because I did not want to give the Taliban and their supporters the pleasure of yet again humiliating an Afghan president and making him sign over the legitimacy of the government," he said.

"I’ve never been afraid. You’ve seen repeatedly rockets have landed around me and I’ve not moved. And it was a split-second decision because they’d entered Kabul and the US embassy had already (been) evacuated," Ghani, who now lives in Abu Dhabi, said.

Denying allegations that he took tens of millions of dollars in cash with him as he fled Kabul, Ghani said that he was briefed by his defence minister that the Afghan capital cannot be defended.

"This amount of cash ($169 million) would have been difficult to conceal. It would be quite substantial in terms of bulk and heft: $169 million in hundred dollar bills, stacked end to end, would form a block 7.5 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 feet tall," he told CNN.

"In other words, it would be somewhat larger than a standard American three-seater couch. This block would have weighed 3,722 pounds, or nearly two tonnes. The Mi-17 helicopters that the group flew on do not have separate cargo holds. Therefore, all of the cargo would have been visible in the cabin next to the passengers."

Notably, Congressional watchdog report issued last week also rejected claims that Ghani fled the war-ravaged country with that much cash.

"The hurried nature of their departure, the emphasis on passengers over cargo, the payload and performance limitations of the helicopters, and the consistent alignment in detailed accounts from witnesses on the ground and in the air all suggest that there was little more than $500,000 in cash on board the helicopters," wrote the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which has tried to monitor the massive US spending in the country over the years.

Meanwhile, when asked about his comparisons with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky, who decided to stay in his country following the Russian invasion, Ghani said the "comparison should be made between 2014" and not in 2021. He said Afghans have been fighting a war for the last 42 years and are "tired of killings".

"Zelensky had the advantage of being forewarned of the Russian invasion by the US, especially the CIA. We were not offered a single piece of paper by our allies. The US itself was unaware of the progress of the Taliban forces. American defence and intelligence were convinced that Kabul would be able to hold out for months, and they were taken off-guard by the swift progress of the Taliban," he said.

Monday was Taliban government's first anniversary in Afghanistan. However, in the last one year, Taliban has imposed significant restrictions on girls and women, limiting their access to education and work, despite initial promises to the contrary. It has also struggled to govern and halt the sharp economic decline that has pushed millions more Afghans into poverty and even hunger. 

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