Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates, has said 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 on Wednesday, his first public comments since it was confirmed he was in the UAE.
He left on the advice of government officials, he added. “Kabul should not be turned into another Yemen or Syria over power struggles so I was forced to leave,” Ghani said.
He also tried to push back on rumours he left the country with millions of dollars. “I left with just a waistcoat and some clothes. The personality assassination against me has been ongoing, saying that I have taken money with me,” Ghani said in the video.
“The accusations are baseless lies. You can even ask customs officials – they are baseless.” The president’s whereabouts were unknown until Wednesday, with speculation that he had fled to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or Oman.
Earlier on Wednesday the United Arab Emirates confirmed in a ministry statement that the Gulf nation was hosting Ghani and his family “on humanitarian grounds”.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan had accused Ghani of stealing $169m from state funds and called on international police to arrest him.