ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday denied reports he took large sums of money as he fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. But the video shows that his staff is carrying big bags during boarding the plane.
Ghani was speaking in a video streamed on Facebook, his first public comments since it was confirmed he was in the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE said on Wednesday it is hosting Ghani and his family on humanitarian grounds.
Ghani’s whereabouts had been unknown after he left Kabul on Sunday. Russian embassy officials told the media on Monday the Afghan president had fled with cars and a helicopter full of cash.
“Accusations I took money with me are complexly baseless, they are lies,” Ghani said in the video stream, as quoted by Reuters.
Bitterly criticized, also by his former cabinet members, for leaving the country, Ghani said he would continue his efforts for Afghanistan and had left to avoid bloodshed.
“I am in consultation with others until I will return so that I can continue my efforts for justice for Afghans,” he said. “If I had stayed, I would be witnessing bloodshed in Kabul.”
The collapse of the Afghan government capped a lightning advance by the Taliban who have seized most of Afghan cities in just 10 days, with relatively little bloodshed.
The takeover came as US President Joe Biden moved to complete the withdrawal of US troops from the war-battered country.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when they were ousted by a US-led invasion for protecting Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America.
The two decades of war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday he supports talks between the Taliban and top former officials, and denied allegations that he transferred large sums of money out of the country before fleeing to the United Arab Emirates.
Ghani — making his first appearance since leaving Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban encircled the capital, a departure that ultimately resulted in their full takeover — reiterated that he had left in order to spare the country more bloodshed.
He said in the recorded video message, broadcast on his Facebook page, that he had no intention of remaining in exile in the Gulf nation and was “in talks” to return home.
He also said he was making efforts to “safeguard the rule of Afghans over our country,” without offering details.
“For now, I am in the Emirates so that bloodshed and chaos is stopped,” Ghani said from the UAE, which confirmed Wednesday he was being hosted there on “humanitarian grounds.”
He voiced support for talks held Wednesday between senior members of the Taliban movement, Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai, and Abdullah Abdullah, who headed the ultimately failed peace process.
“I want the success of this process,” he said.
It was Abdullah — a long-time rival of Ghani — who announced the president had left the country on Sunday, suggesting he would be judged harshly.
But Ghani insisted he had left for the good of the country, and not his own wellbeing.
“Do not believe whoever tells you that your president sold you out and fled for his own advantage and to save his own life,” he said. “These accusations are baseless… and I strongly reject them.”
“I was expelled from Afghanistan in such a way that I didn’t even get the chance to take my slippers off my feet and pull on my boots,” he added, noting that he had arrived in the Emirates “empty-handed.”
He claimed that the Taliban had entered Kabul despite an agreement not to do so.
“Had I stayed there, an elected president of Afghanistan would have been hanged again right before the Afghans’ own eyes,” he said.
The first time the Taliban seized Kabul, when they established their regime in 1996, they dragged former communist president Mohammed Najibullah from a United Nations office where he had been sheltering, and hanged him in a public street after torturing him.