Former Afghan President Says He Fled Country to ‘Save Kabul’

Former President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan mentioned he fled the rustic to forestall the destruction of Kabul as Taliban opponents complicated at the capital, providing probably the most detailed protection of his movements for the reason that executive’s cave in in August.

Mr. Ghani, chatting with the BBC in an interview broadcast on Thursday — his first interview since he fled — mentioned his surprising departure used to be the “toughest” choice he made. He famous that even within the hours ahead of he boarded a helicopter and used to be spirited abroad, he didn’t realize it can be his final day in his hometown.

The Taliban had in large part surrounded Kabul and panic gripped the town when Mr. Ghani, at the side of his spouse and shut pals, fled at the afternoon of Aug. 15.

Mr. Ghani advised BBC’s Radio 4 that if he took “a stand,” the presidential palace safety guards would had been killed.

“And so they weren’t able to protecting me,” he added.

“Two other factions of the Taliban had been last in from two other instructions,” Mr. Ghani defined. “And the potential of an enormous warfare between them that will spoil the town of 5 million and produce havoc to the folk used to be monumental.”

The verdict to go away used to be frenzied, he mentioned, and he used to be no longer given “greater than two mins” to get able for the flight abroad.

Greater than 3 months later, he’s smartly conscious about the criticisms from many corners that he deserted his country when he used to be wanted maximum.

“My lifestyles paintings has been destroyed,” he mentioned. “My values were trampled on. And I’ve been made a scapegoat.” However he as soon as once more defended his movements.

“I needed to sacrifice myself with the intention to save Kabul,” he mentioned. The Taliban took complete keep an eye on of Kabul hours after Mr. Ghani’s break out and the cave in of his safety forces. 3 days later, Mr. Ghani resurfaced within the United Arab Emirates, the place he has been residing since then.

Mr. Ghani mentioned the preliminary plan used to be to go away Kabul for Khost, a province in southeastern Afghanistan, the place C.I.A.-backed militiamen, referred to as the Khost Coverage Pressure, had been based totally. However the plan modified as a result of Khost had already fallen to the Taliban.

Mr. Ghani additionally denied the accusations that he stole thousands and thousands of bucks whilst fleeing the rustic.

Within the interview, he expanded on an apology, written in English, that he posted on Twitter in September. On the time, his apology used to be no longer gained warmly through Afghans who had been enraged through his surprising break out. Some accused him of betraying a country and a rustic he had led for just about 8 years.

The Taliban’s new executive has proven no interest in adopting the achievements of the previous twenty years. It has imposed restrictions on unfastened press and ladies’s rights, and marginalized minorities.

The Taliban have additionally summarily completed or forcibly disappeared dozens of the previous executive’s safety forces since they seized energy in August, consistent with stories through human rights teams.

Afghanistan’s economic system is at the breaking point. Thousands and thousands of Afghans would not have sufficient to devour, and 1,000,000 youngsters may starve to loss of life this iciness.

This all can have been have shyed away from if Mr. Ghani had no longer deserted Afghans in an overly crucial second, and agreed to an orderly transition of energy, mavens and a few Western officers mentioned.

Critics have blamed Mr. Ghani for the present financial disaster in Afghanistan, announcing his choice to escape the rustic derailed a last-ditch deal that can have averted a whole takeover of the federal government through the Taliban and the sanctions that got here after.

However Mr. Ghani criticized america for negotiating without delay with the Taliban with out involving the Afghan executive, announcing the discharge of hundreds of Taliban prisoners — a part of the deal — emboldened the insurgents, who in the long run overthrew his executive.

“I used to be painted in overall black,” he mentioned, including that the Afghan executive used to be by no means given an opportunity to barter without delay with the Taliban. “Ambassador Khalilzad sat down with them,” he mentioned, relating to Zalmay Khalilzad, the American former peace envoy. “It was an American factor. Now not an Afghan factor.”

“They erased us,” he added.

Mr. Khalilzad, who additionally spoke at the similar radio display, rejected Mr. Ghani’s remark, blaming him and the leaders of Afghan safety forces for the “failure” of the Afghan executive and the cave in of its forces.

“There used to be an settlement that President Ghani had agreed to, on Aug. 15, that the Talibs would no longer move into Kabul,” Mr. Khalilzad advised BBC Radio 4. In a telephone dialog with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the night of Aug. 14, Mr. Ghani showed his settlement with a plan to participate in an orderly transition of energy at a criminal meeting referred to as a loya jirga, which used to be scheduled to happen on Aug. 30., consistent with Mr. Khalilzad.

“After agreeing to it, to everybody’s marvel, he and a couple of others departed,” Mr. Khalilzad mentioned.

Mr. Ghani, 72, spent over twenty years of his lifestyles in america, first as an anthropology scholar, then as a professor and a International Financial institution worker. He returned to Afghanistan after 2001, operating as the rustic’s finance minister. He received the presidential election in 2014, and used to be re-elected in 2019. Each elections had been marred through well-liked fraud.

His executive used to be sidelined from the peace talks after america engaged without delay with the Taliban, signing a handle the crowd in February 2020.

The Taliban intensified assaults at the former executive’s forces after President Biden introduced in April that the American forces would withdraw from Afghanistan through September. By means of early summer time, the rebel workforce managed greater than part of the districts in Afghanistan.

By means of past due July, the federal government forces had misplaced keep an eye on of all the rural geographical region. In one of the vital exceptional army campaigns, the Taliban captured 33 provincial capitals and Kabul, the country’s capital, in lower than two weeks, with out dealing with a lot resistance.

The Taliban’s lightning victory stunned many, together with Mr. Ghani, who had proven no interest in attractive in severe negotiations with them.

Mr. Ghani departed Kabul within the early afternoon of Aug. 15, boarding helicopters parked on the presidential palace. The helicopters landed in neighboring Uzbekistan more or less two hours later. A chartered aircraft transported him and his partners to the United Arab Emirates the next day to come.

Amongst those that fled along Mr. Ghani had been his two maximum depended on aides, Hamdullah Mohib, his nationwide safety adviser, and Fazel Mahmood Fazly, the director of the president’s administrative place of job. Mr. Mohib and Mr. Fazly had been probably the most tough officers after the president.

As the scoop of Mr. Ghani’s break out broke, dozens of presidency’s officers, cupboard ministers and generals flooded the airport, hoping to catch a flight abroad.

All the way through the just about 8 years of his presidency, he had centralized the facility to such an extent that all the gadget collapsed quickly after his departure, leaving in the back of an influence vacuum, which the Taliban in an instant crammed.

Wali Arian contributed reporting.


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