A year later, the ex-Afghan leader defends his role in the takeover of the Taliban

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — On the eve of the anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the former Afghan president on Sunday defended what he called a split-second decision to flee, saying that he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrendering to the insurgents.

Ashraf Ghani also told CNN that on the morning of August 15, 2021, with the Taliban at the gates of the Afghan capital, he was the last in the presidential palace after his guards disappeared. He said the defense minister told him earlier in the day that Kabul could not be defended.

Ghani had previously sought to justify his actions on the day Kabul fell, but offered more details on Sunday. He alleged that one of the palace cooks had been offered $100,000 to poison him and that he felt his immediate surroundings were no longer safe.

“If I left, it was because I did not want to give the Taliban and their supporters the pleasure of once again humiliating an Afghan president and making him sign the legitimacy of the government,” he said. declared. “I have never been afraid.”

Critics say Ghani’s sudden and secret departure on August 15 left the city rudderless as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years.

Ghani also denied persistent allegations that he took tens of millions of dollars in cash with him as he and other officials fled by helicopter.

In a report released last week, a congressional watchdog said it was unlikely Ghani and his senior advisers carried so much cash on the evacuation helicopters.

“The rushed nature of their departure, the focus on passengers rather than cargo, the payload and performance limitations of helicopters, and the consistent alignment of detailed witness accounts on the ground and in the air suggest all that there was just over $500,000 in cash aboard the helicopters,” wrote the Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which tried to monitor the massive spending of the United States in the country over the years.

The agency added that “there remains a strong possibility that significant amounts of U.S. currency disappeared from Afghan government assets amid the chaos of the Taliban takeover, including millions from the presidential palace” and vault. fort of the National Directorate of Security. However, the report says the watchdog was unable to determine how much money was stolen and by whom.

Ultimately, the Taliban seized the capital without significant fighting last August, capping a week-long military blitz in which they quickly captured provincial capitals with little resistance from Afghan security forces in increasingly demoralized.

In the year since taking power, former insurgents have imposed significant restrictions on girls and women, limiting their access to education and work, despite initial promises to the contrary. The Taliban have remained internationally isolated and largely cut off from the flow of international aid to the Ghani government. The Taliban have struggled to govern and stem the brutal economic decline that has plunged millions more Afghans into poverty and even hunger.

Despite these challenges, the Taliban-led government has planned several events for Monday to mark the anniversary, including speeches by Taliban officials and several sporting events.

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