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Ashraf Ghani at the UN in 2017. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement Wednesday apologizing to Afghans for fleeing Kabul on the day the Taliban entered the capital city, calling it "the most difficult decision" of his life.

Why it matters: Ghani's decision to flee Kabul and seek asylum in the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 15 precipitated the collapse of the Afghan government.

  • In a White House address the day after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, President Biden criticized Ghani and the Afghan security forces for choosing not to "fight for their country."
  • Ghani was also accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of public money as he fled Kabul, allegations he has vigorously denied. He said Wednesday that he and his top aides would submit to an independent investigation or audit to prove his innocence.

The big picture: Ghani's statement — his most extensive public remarks since the fall of Kabul — comes one day after the Taliban announced the formation of an acting government that features top loyalists and several internationally sanctioned terrorists.

What they're saying: "I owe the Afghan people an explanation for leaving Kabul abruptly on August 15th after Taliban unexpectedly entered the city. I left at the urging of the palace security who advised me that to remain risked setting off the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s," Ghani said.

  • "Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens," he added.
  • "Now is not the moment for a long assessment of the events leading up to my departure — I will address them in detail in the near future. But I must now address baseless allegations that as I left Kabul I took with my millions of dollars belonging to the Afghan people. These charges are completely and categorically false."
  • "Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president. I inherited a monster that could not easily or quickly be defeated."

The bottom line: "It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors — without ensuring stability and prosperity. I apologize to the Afghan people that I could not make it end differently," Ghani concluded. "My commitment to the Afghan people has never wavered and will guide me for the rest of my life."

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - World

Taliban press Biden to release frozen Afghan assets as economy shrivels

Afghans wait outside a bank in hopes of withdrawing cash, watched by a Taliban fighter. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty

With the Afghan government and economy starved of cash, the Taliban are pressing their claim to the roughly $8 billion in Afghan foreign reserves that have been frozen by the U.S.

Why it matters: Afghanistan is barreling into a humanitarian crisis, and donor countries and international institutions have cut off the aid that accounted for some 75% of the previous government’s budget.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.