Former Afghan President Ghani says he escaped Kabul to stop 'chaos'

Former Afghan President Ghani says he escaped Kabul to stop 'chaos'
3 min read
31 December, 2021
Ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was unaware until the last minute that he would have to flee the country and placed too much trust in the international community.
Ashraf Ghani gave his first interview since the fall of Kabul [Getty]

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who escaped Kabul on 15 August as Taliban militants took over the city, has said that he fled to stop the city being devastated, saying that his government's international partners bore responsibility.

The Islamist Taliban swept across Afghanistan in August, taking over the country far faster than expected as Western forces began their final withdrawal from the country after a two decade presence.

Ghani spoke with BBC Radio 4 Today on Thursday, making his first media appearance following his escape.

He said: "Two different factions of the Taliban were closing in from two different directions.

"And the possibility of a massive conflict between them that would destroy the city of five million and bring havoc to the people was enormous."

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He maintained that he was totally unaware that he would have to flee his country as he woke up on that fateful August day.

Ghani first understood he would be leaving Afghanistan after his aircraft took off from Kabul, he said.

The president said that his national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, and his head of security rushed him aboard a helicopter.

Ghani, who described Mohib as being "terrified", said the duo explained the consequences if he chose to put up a fight.

"They said the [Presidential Protection Service] has collapsed – if I take a stand they will all be killed," Ghani recounted.

He added that Mohib "did not give me more than two minutes", asserting he had been asked to ready himself for travel to Khost, before being informed both that city and Jalalabad were lost.

"I did not know where we will go. Only when we took off, it became clear that we were leaving [the country]. So, this was really sudden."

Ghani maintained his "life's work has been destroyed" and that he had "been made a scapegoat".

He did admit some fault on Thursday's broadcast, however, when requested for a message to his compatriots.

Previously a top-level UK defence adviser, show host Nick Carter said lots of Afghans "blame you as their leader".

Ghani conceded: "What they rightly blame me for, they have a total right to. I trusted in our international partnership and pursued that path.

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"All of us made a huge mistake assuming the patience of the international community would last."

The former leader argued the US had sidelined Afghanistan's authorities from negotiations with the Taliban over the years.

Ghani contended: "Process-wise, outcome-wise, the responsibility has to clearly rest with the [US] team."

He asserted the Afghan authorities were not afforded the chance to dialogue with the Taliban.

"[US] Ambassador Khalilzad sat down with them. It became an American issue, not an Afghan issue. They erased us," Ghani said.