Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will attend a security rally in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 14, 2021.
Afghan Presidential Palace | Reuters
More than three weeks after fleeing Kabul by helicopter as the Taliban swept through the capital, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement late Wednesday apologizing to his countrymen.
“I owe it to the Afghan people for explaining that they left Kabul abruptly on August 15, after the Taliban unexpectedly entered the city,” Ghani began in a letter on his Twitter account, which was written in English only.
Three days after his quick departure and amid apocalyptic scenes of panic at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport as desperate Afghans tried to flee the country, Ghani reappeared in the United Arab Emirates, whose government confirmed it had offered him and his family welcomed for humanitarian reasons.
“I traveled at the request of the palace security guard, who advised me that I risked continuing to start the same horrible street for street fights that the city had suffered during the civil war in the 1990s. Leaving Kabul was the hardest decision of my life, but I thought it was the only way to keep the weapons silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens, “wrote the former academic and World Bank official who had been Afghanistan’s president since 2014.
In what some see as an attempt to avoid accountability, Ghani said: “Now is not the time for a lengthy assessment of the events that led to my departure,” adding that “I will address them in the near future. future.”
Taliban forces had made a series of astonishing advances across the country of 39 million in the wake of the Biden administration and NATO announcing a full departure of US and coalition forces by the end of August.
Amid the exodus of foreign troops, the Taliban were able to declare almost complete control of the country within 10 days of capturing their first provincial capital. This was despite the fact that it was far outnumbered by the Afghan military, which has been assisted by US and coalition forces for the past 20 years.
Refuses to take millions in cash with him
Ghani has been accused of participating in and benefiting from widespread corruption. Rumors abounded among Afghans and analysts that the 72-year-old took millions of dollars in cash with him as he traveled, and Russian state media reported the same. In his letter, Ghani denied the allegations.
“I must now address baseless allegations that when I left Kabul, I took millions of dollars with me belonging to the Afghan people. These accusations are completely and categorically false. Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades, and the fight against corruption has been central to my efforts as president. “
U.S. and former Afghan officials, including those who worked closely with Ghani, allege numerous cases of corruption and bribery within Ghani’s office and family, and independent investigations have concluded that Ghani gave lucrative contracts to immediate family members. Ghani has denied the allegations.
“I welcome an official audit or financial inquiry under the auspices of the United Nations or any other appropriate independent body to prove the accuracy of my statements here,” Ghani wrote in his statement on 8 September.
Analysts and many U.S. veterans of the war in Afghanistan note that the corruption in the Afghan government and in its military leadership often meant that money earmarked for soldiers’ salaries instead went to the pockets of senior officials. They told CNBC that the Afghan military’s rapid surrender to the Taliban was due in part to a total lack of confidence that Ghani and the government in Kabul would support them.
“I offer my deep appreciation and respect for the sacrifice of all Afghans, especially our Afghan soldiers and their families, over the last forty years,” Ghani wrote in the concluding section of his letter.
“It is with deep and deep regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy as my predecessors – without ensuring stability and prosperity. I apologize to the Afghan people that I could not make it end any differently. My commitment to for the Afghan people have never wavered and will guide me for the rest of my life. “