Afghanistan’s ex-president says he fled to avoid ‘humiliating’ surrender to Taliban

·3-min read

As Afghanistan marks one year since the Taliban took over the country,former president Ashraf Ghani has said that he took a split-second decision to flee Kabul to avoid a "humiliating" surrender.

Mr Ghani claimed he was the last person to leave the presidential palace after his guards disappeared. The Islamist militants reached Kabul and wrested power from the Afghan government on 15 August, following the hasty withdrawal of troops by the US and its allies.

Mr Ghani said his erstwhile defence minister had told him that day that Kabul could not be defended.

“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, in an apparent reference to former president Mohammad Najibullah.

“I have never been afraid,” he told CNN.

He alleged that one of the cooks in the palace had been offered $100,000 to poison him.

Mr Ghani's new remarks are in contrast to what he told his 40 million countrymen after fleeing the south Asian country.

The former president in a Facebook post last year defended his move, stating that he thought it would be "better" for him to leave in order "to avoid bloodshed".

The 73-year-old former president, who now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates, refuted allegations that he fled with $5m from the country’s coffers.

“This is part of a disinformation campaign,” he said. “They have investigated and found nothing,” he said.

A US Congressional watchdog in its report last week said it’s unlikely that Mr Ghani and his senior advisers transported that much cash on the escape helicopters given 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.

It added that: “It remains a strong possibility that significant amounts of US currency disappeared from Afghan government property in the chaos of the Taliban takeover, including millions from the presidential palace.”

Since the Taliban takeover, millions of Afghans have been pushed into an abyss of poverty and hunger due to the collapse of the economy.

Women in Kabul protest against clampdown on rights by Taliban rulers (Getty Images)
Women in Kabul protest against clampdown on rights by Taliban rulers (Getty Images)

Under the rule of the Islamist fundamentalists, nearly 97 per cent of the country’s population has been projected to fall into poverty by mid-2022, according to the UN Development Programme.

There has been a steady clampdown on women’s rights, with the Taliban forcing all Afghan women to wear an all-covering burqa in public that veils their faces. Young girls have been taken out of secondary schools, depriving a generation of access to education.

On Monday, Taliban fighters, armed with rifles and white banners, staged victory parades on foot, bicycles and motorcycles in the streets of Kabul.

A group of fighters reportedly marched past the former American embassy, chanting “Long live Islam” and “Death to America.”

Tomas Niklasson, the EU’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said the bloc remained committed to the Afghan peopl and to “stability, prosperity and sustainable peace in Afghanistan and the region”.

“This will require an inclusive political process with full, equal and meaningful participation of all Afghan men and women and respect for human rights,” Mr Niklasson added.