KABUL: Former president Ashraf Ghani said he fled the country as the Taliban closed in Kabul on August 15 only to prevent the destruction of Kabul, in a brazen attempt to whitewash his escape which led to a collapse of Afghanistan.
The Taliban seized power in August after taking control of the capital.
When trying to explain his catastrophic escape, he said it was only when his plane left Kabul that he realized he was going.
Ghani also rejected allegations that he had taken vast amounts of money. “I want to categorically state, I did not take any money out of the country,” he said, adding: “My style of life is known to everyone. What would I do with money?”
In his interview with Gen Sir Nick Carter, the UK’s former Chief of the Defence Staff on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ghani acknowledged mistakes were made, including “assuming that the patience of the international community would last”.
However, he pointed to the agreement made between the Taliban and the US under then-President Donald Trump, which paved the way for the events leading to 15 August.
“Instead of a peace process, we got a withdrawal process,” Mr Ghani said. The way the deal was done, Mr Ghani added, “erased us”.
He was heavily criticised and accused of abandoning the country at the time. He is now in the United Arab Emirates.
As the day started, Mr Ghani recalled, Taliban fighters had agreed not to enter Kabul – “but two hours later, this was not the case”.
“Two different factions of the Taliban were closing in from two different directions,” Mr Ghani explained. “And the possibility of a massive conflict between them that would destroy the city of five million and bring havoc to the people was enormous.”
He agreed to let his national security adviser and wife leave Kabul, then waited for a car to take him to the ministry of defence.
The car never came. Instead, the “terrified” chief of presidential security came to him to say that if Mr Ghani took a stand, “they will all be killed”.
“He did not give me more than two minutes,” Mr Ghani said. “My instructions had been to prepare for departure for [the city of] Khost. He told me that Khost had fallen and so had Jalalabad.
“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.”
What happened in the end, Mr Ghani said, was “a violent coup, not a political agreement, or a political process where the people have been involved”.
Three months on, Mr Ghani says he is willing to take the blame for some things which led to the fall of Kabul – like trusting “in our international partnership”.
The same day Mr Ghani left Kabul, the Taliban took control. Since then, the country has been thrown into an humanitarian and economic crisis, made worse by the removal of international support after the group seized power.