Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani defended his decision to abruptly flee the country over three weeks ago amid the Taliban’s takeover and denied reports that he took millions of dollars with him in a statement issued Wednesday.
Ghani quietly left the country as the Taliban closed in on Kabul in mid-August, crossing into Tajikistan with a number of close advisers before resurfacing in the United Arab Emirates. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan, Mohammad Zahir Afghbar, accused Ghani of stealing “$169 million from the state coffers” as he fled, according to The Associated Press.
Weeks later, Ghani finally addressed the allegations, calling them “baseless” in his statement.
“These charges are completely and categorically false,” Ghani wrote. “Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a mental focus of my efforts as president. I inherited a monster that could not easily or quickly be defeated. My wife and I have been scrupulous in our personal finances.”
Statement 8 September 2021 pic.twitter.com/5yKXWIdLfM
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) September 8, 2021
Ghani said he welcomes “an official audit or financial investigation” in the wake of his denial. He also defended his decision to effectively abandon Afghanistan, writing that palace security advised him that remaining “Risked setting off the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s.” (RELATED: UN Children’s Agency Official Says They Are Optimistic Following Taliban Talks)
“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 millions citizens,” he wrote, claiming that it was never his “intent to abandon the people or” the vision for democracy.
Ghani closed his statement with an apology that he could not “make it end differently” for the Afghan people. He vowed that, despite leaving unannounced as the Taliban took over the country, his “commitment to the Afghan people has never wavered.”
A massive evacuation began after the Taliban took over Kabul. Throngs of Afghans flooded to the Kabul airport in the hopes that the U.S. would help them leave the country. That mission ended on Aug. 31, a date that President Joe Biden stuck with despite Americans and Afghan allies still remaining in the country.