Updated Aug 18, 2021 - World

Ghani says he fled Afghanistan to avert Taliban killing, denies taking money

Ashraf Ghani

Ghani at the White House in June. Photo: Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani — speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates — said he fled the country to avoid being killed by the Taliban and denied allegations that he took a large sum of money with him.

The latest: In a video posted to Facebook Wednesday, Ghani said he left Kabul to prevent bloodshed and accused the Taliban of breaking an agreement to remain on the outskirts of the city.

  • “If I had stayed in Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan would have witnessed the president hanged once more," Ghani said, according to a translation from the New York Times, in a reference to the Taliban's killing of Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah in 1996.
  • The ousted president also said he is in "talks to return to Afghanistan" despite the Taliban's takeover, according to Bloomberg.
  • Afghanistan's ambassador to Tajikistan had accused Ghani of leaving the presidential palace with US$169 million, the BBC reported. Ghani called the allegations "completely baseless" and "lies," per Sky News.

Driving the news: The United Arab Emirates' foreign ministry confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the UAE allowed Ghani and his family into the country on "humanitarian grounds."

Why it matters: Ghani fled Afghanistan on Sunday as the Taliban closed in on Kabul, precipitating the collapse of the Afghan government. His whereabouts had previously been unknown.

  • "Today I faced a tough choice — to stand up to the Taliban who wanted to enter the Citadel or leave my country that I have devoted the last 20 years to protecting," Ghani wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.
  • "If I had stayed, it would have resulted in the martyrdom of many citizens and the destruction of Kabul."

The big picture: The U.S-backed former president has been heavily criticized for abandoning his country amid a rapid Taliban offensive that exposed the weakness of the Afghan security forces.

  • Ghani visited President Biden at the White House in June, as the U.S. prepared to fully withdraw from Afghanistan. There, Biden assured Ghani that the U.S. would maintain a "sustained" partnership with Afghanistan, despite the military exit.
  • The Biden administration's tune changed as the scale of the Afghan government's defeat became clear in recent days: "Afghan political leaders gave up and fled. The Afghan military collapsed, without trying to fight," Biden said in an address from the White House on Monday. "Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong."

Go deeper: After 7 Years of Failing to Fix Afghanistan, Ghani Makes a Hasty Escape (N.Y. Times)

Editor's note: This post has been updated with new details throughout.

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