Ex-Afghanistan president defends decision to flee after Taliban takeover

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Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan

LONDON:  Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan, on Thursday defended his decision to flee the country as the Taliban took over the capital Kabul in mid-August.

In an interview with BBC News, Ashraf Ghani said he did not intend to leave Afghanistan, but reiterated that his sudden departure saved Kabul from death and destruction.

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“Two different factions of the Taliban were closing in from two different directions,” Ghani said, describing the moment he was informed of the Taliban’s advance on the capital.

“And the possibility of a massive conflict between them that would destroy the city of 5 million and bring havoc to the people was enormous.”

Ghani explained that he initially planned to leave Kabul for another city, but upon hearing news of the fall of other cities, decided that the only viable option was to exit Afghanistan.

He was also advised by his security chief that a stand in Kabul would mean certain death for Ghani, his close advisers and millions of residents of the capital.

“He did not give me more than two minutes. My instructions had been to prepare for departure for Khost. He told me that Khost had fallen and so had Jalalabad,” Ghani said.

“I did not know where we will go. Only when we took off, it became clear that we were leaving (Afghanistan). So this really was sudden.”

The former president has been heavily criticized for fleeing and abandoning Afghanistan, with former Vice President Amrullah Saleh calling his departure “disgraceful.”

Accusations of embezzlement have also been levelled against Ghani.

He previously rebuffed what he said were “baseless allegations” that he escaped from Kabul “with millions of dollars belonging to the Afghan people.”

“I want to categorically state, I did not take any money out of the country. My style of life is known to everyone. What would I do with money?” the former president said.

Ghani accepted that mistakes were made during his administration, but put most of the blame on the international community including the US, whom he accused of sidelining his government during talks with the Taliban.

A peace process initiated by former US President Donald Trump allowed for the US to withdraw from Afghanistan and paved the way for a transition of power in Afghanistan.

The US exit, however, was accelerated by the Biden administration this year, giving the Taliban a chance to sweep through the country in a matter of weeks after a two-decade insurgency against international forces led by Washington.-AA

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