Exiled Ashraf Ghani says he left Kabul to prevent bloodshed, denies taking money

Afghan embassy in Tajikistan has demanded the arrest of Ashraf Ghani for "stealing from the country’s treasury"

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes an address about the latest developments in the country from exile in United Arab Emirates, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video on August 18, 2021. — Facebook/Ashraf Ghani/via Reuters
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes an address about the latest developments in the country from exile in United Arab Emirates, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video on August 18, 2021. — Facebook/Ashraf Ghani/via Reuters

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates, said on Wednesday that he had left Kabul to prevent bloodshed and denied reports he took large sums of money with him as he departed the presidential palace.

Ghani has been bitterly criticised by former ministers for leaving the country suddenly as Taliban forces entered Kabul on Sunday.

"If I had stayed, I would be witnessing bloodshed in Kabul," Ghani said in a video streamed on Facebook, his first public comments since it was confirmed he was in the UAE.

He left on the advice of government officials, he added. 

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier in the day said that it has welcomed ousted Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country.

"The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds," read a brief statement on the ministry's website.

Ghani's whereabouts had been the subject of much speculation since he fled from Afghanistan on Sunday, as the Taliban entered capital Kabul in the final stage to wrap up a 10-day lightning offensive across the country.

Take a look: The rise and fall of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

At the time, a senior Interior Ministry official said Ghani had left for Tajikistan. A Foreign Ministry official said his location was unknown and the Taliban said it was checking his whereabouts.

Meanwhile, foreign media reports on Afghanistan contacting the Interpol and asking it to arrest Ghani began to surface earlier today.

According to Forbes, the Afghan embassy in Tajikistan made the demand on charges of Ghani "stealing from the country’s treasury".

It has also demanded the arrest of former Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib and Ghani’s Chief Advisor Fazel Mahmood, TOLO News said, quoting sources.

Afghan vice president says he is "caretaker" president

Meanwhile, Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Tuesday he was in Afghanistan and the "legitimate caretaker president" after Ghani's departure.

Saleh told a security meeting chaired by Ghani last week that he was proud of the armed forces and the government would do all it could to strengthen resistance to the Taliban.

But the country fell to the Taliban in days, rather than the months foreseen by US intelligence.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Saleh said that it was "futile" to argue with US President Joe Biden, who has decided to pull out US forces.

He called on Afghans to show that Afghanistan "isn't Vietnam & the Talibs aren't even remotely like Vietcong".

A video of desperate Afghans trying to clamber on to a US military plane as it was about to take off bore evoked a photograph in 1975 of people trying to get on a helicopter on a roof in Saigon during the withdrawal from Vietnam.

Saleh said that unlike the United States and NATO "we haven't lost spirit & see enormous opportunities ahead. Useless caveats are finished JOIN THE RESISTANCE."

Saleh, whose whereabouts were unknown, said that he would never "under no circumstances bow" to "the Talib terrorists." He said he would "never betray" Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance who was assassinated by two Al Qaeda operatives just before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Ghani fled with cars and helicopter full of cash

Russia's embassy in Kabul on Monday said that Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported.

Russia has said it will retain a diplomatic presence in Kabul and hopes to develop ties with the Taliban even as it says it is no rush to recognise them as the country's rulers and will closely observe their behaviour.

"As for the collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterised by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan," Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by RIA.

"Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac," he was quoted as saying.

Ischenko, the Russian embassy spokesman, confirmed his comments to Reuters. He cited "witnesses" as the source of his information. Reuters could not independently confirm the veracity of his account immediately.

President Vladimir Putin's special representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said earlier it was unclear how much money the fleeing government would leave behind.

"I hope the government that has fled did not take all the money from the state budget. It will be the bedrock of the budget if something is left," Kabulov told Moscow's Ekho Moskvy radio station.