Ashraf Ghani claims he didn’t know he was fleeing Afghanistan

​The former president of Afghanistan has claimed he did not know he would be taken out of the war-torn country when security officials advised him to leave Kabul as Taliban forces closed in on the capital this past August.

Ashraf Ghani told the BBC that he had “no inkling” when he rose on the morning of Aug. 15 that it would be his last day in Afghanistan.

“I did not know where we will go,” he said. “Only when we took off, it became clear that we were leaving [Afghanistan]. So this really was sudden.”

Ghani also claimed the Taliban had agreed earlier in the day not to enter Kabul, “but two hours later, this was not the case.”

“Two different factions of the Taliban were closing in from two different directions,” Ghani said. “And the possibility of a massive conflict between them that would destroy the city of 5 million and bring havoc to the people was enormous.”

At that point, Ghani said, he agreed to allow some government officials — including his national security adviser — to leave the country. He told his wife she could leave as well, which Ghani said she did reluctantly.

Taliban members celebrate talking over the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 16, 2021.
AL JAZEERA/AFP via Getty Images

The soon-to-be-deposed president waited in vain for a car to take him to the ministry of defense before his national security adviser returned with the “terrified” chief of presidential security and told Ghani they would “all be killed” if they stayed.​

“He did not give me more than two minutes. My instructions had been to prepare for departure for [the city of] Khost,” said Ghani, who now lives in the United Arab Emirates. “He told me that Khost had fallen and so had Jalalabad.”

In September, Zalmay Khalilzad, then the special US envoy for Afghanistan, claimed to the Financial Times that Ghani’s departure had scuttled ongoing last-ditch talks meant to negotiate a political transition and delay the Taliban entering Kabul.

Hours after Ghani’s departure, Taliban fighters were posing for photos in the abandoned Presidential Palace, completing their lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan in the midst of President Biden’s haphazard withdrawal of US troops.

The operation descended into chaos as hordes of desperate Afghans crowded the streets in an effort to get to Hamid Karzai International Airport and secure a flight out of the country, forcing the White House to deploy more troops to help evacuate US citizens and Afghan allies.

Then Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks
Former special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad claims Afghan forces were attempting to settle a transition deal with the Taliban.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File

Amid the mayhem, an ISIS-K terrorist detonated a suicide bomb on Aug. 26, killing 13 American military members and scores of Afghans.

Ghani was heavily criticized for leaving Afghanistan, with some calling him a deserter who betrayed his people.

The US has also launched an investigation into whether Ghani left the country with millions of dollars in cash, a claim he denied in the BBC interview.

“I want to categorically state, I did not take any money out of the country,” he said. “My style of life is known to everyone. What would I do with the money?”