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.”