Afghanistan’s former president, Ashraf Ghani has given an insight into his final days in office before the Taliban took over the government in a stunning military sweep of the war-torn country.
According to Ghani, he had just a few minutes to decide to flee in the hours before the Taliban took control of the capital in August.
According to the account of the Afghan and US officials, there was an agreement between the Taliban and Ghani to have a peaceful transfer of power but Ghani has disputed that account, saying he had no choice but to abruptly leave Kabul as the Taliban closed in.
Speaking in a BBC interview on Thursday, December 30, Ghani said that an adviser gave him just minutes to decide to abandon the capital, Kabul. He also denied widespread accusations that he left Afghanistan with millions in stolen money.
Ghani’s sudden and secret departure on August 15 left the city in state of confusion as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country after 20 years.
“On the morning of that day, I had no inkling that by late afternoon I would be leaving,” Ghani told BBC radio.
But Ghani in his radio interview with British General Sir Nick Carter, former chief of defence staff, said he fled “to prevent the destruction of Kabul”, claiming two rival Taliban factions were advancing on the city and were ready to enter a bitter battle for control.
There was no evidence upon the Taliban entry of the rival factions Ghani referred to.
Ghani’s flight meant an orderly transfer of power was not possible, and allowed the Taliban to simply fill the security vacuum. Many Afghans now accuse Ghani, who is now living in the United Arab Emirates, of simply handing them over to the Taliban.
The Taliban quickly took control of the as Afghan government forces surrendered or ran away.
According to humanitarian aid workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Taliban moved to protect their compounds.
US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko has been tasked with investigating those allegations.
After being told by his national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib that his personal protection forces were not capable of defending him, Ghani said he decided to leave.
Mohib, who “was literally terrified”, gave him just 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 getting ready to take off.
However this doesn’t correlate with what Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai told The Associated Press news agency in an interview earlier this month. He said that Ghani’s departure scuttled the opportunity for government negotiators, including himself and peace council chairman Abdullah Abdullah, to reach an eleventh-hour agreement with the Taliban, who had committed to staying outside the capital.
Karzai said that after calling then-Defence Minister Bismillah Khan, the interior minister and the police chief, and discovering all had fled the capital, Karzai said he invited the Taliban into Kabul “to protect the population so that the country, the city doesn’t fall into chaos and the unwanted elements who would probably loot the country, loot shops”.