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Rabu, 08 September 2021

Ousted Afghan leader breaks his silence - NEWS.com.au

Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban closed in on Kabul last month, sparking panic. Today he tried to explain his decision.

The former president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has released a statement apologising to the country's people for the way his tenure ended.

Mr Ghani had served as Afghanistan's president since 2014, but fled overseas on August 15, shortly before militants overran the nation's capital and seized control of the presidential palace. He sought refuge in the United Arab Emirates.

In a lengthy statement today, he explained his actions, insisting he left in an effort to stave off "horrific" fighting in the streets.

"I owe the Afghan people an explanation for leaving Kabul abruptly on August 15 after the Taliban unexpectedly entered the city," Mr Ghani said.

"I left at the urging of the palace security, who advised me that to remain risked setting off the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s.

"Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her six million citizens.

"I have devoted 20 years of my life to helping the Afghan people work towards building a democratic, prosperous and sovereign state. It was never my intent to abandon the people or that vision."

Mr Ghani said "now is not the moment" to assess the "events leading up to" his departure from Afghanistan, but he would "address them in detail in the near future".

Instead, he focused on denying reports from Russian media claiming he fled Kabul with millions of dollars.

"I must now address baseless allegations that as I left Kabul I took with me millions of dollars belonging to the Afghan people," he said.

"These charges are completely and categorically false. Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades, and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president. I inherited a monster that could not easily or quickly be defeated.

"My wife and I have been scrupulous in our personal finances. I have publicly declared all of my assets. My wife's family inheritance has also been disclosed, and remains listed in her home country of Lebanon.

"I welcome an official audit or financial investigation under United Nations auspices or any other appropriate independent body to prove the veracity of my statements here. My close aides are ready to submit their finances to public audit, and I would encourage and urge other former senior officials and political figures to do the same."

Finally, Mr Ghani offered his "profound appreciation and respect" for "the sacrifice of all Afghans", especially the country's soldiers and their families.

"It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors - without ensuring stability and prosperity," he said.

"I apologise to the Afghan people that I could not make it end differently. My commitment to the Afghan people has never wavered and will guide me for the rest of my life."

Mr Ghani's statement came a day after the Taliban announced the formation of a new "caretaker" government in Afghanistan, whose leaders include one "terrorist" wanted by the FBI and another wanted by the United Nations.

The man who will replace Mr Ghani at the head of the government as prime minister is Mohammad Hasan Akhund, who currently controls the Taliban's leadership council.

The Taliban's co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar will serve as one of two deputy leaders. He was the militant group's lead negotiator when it reached a deal with the United States in February of last year, which committed the US to a full military withdrawal by May 1, 2021.

US President Joe Biden ultimately pushed back the deadline to the end of August.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new acting interior minister, is a senior leader of the Haqqani network, according to the FBI, which describes him as a "specially designated global terrorist". He has a US$5 million bounty on his head.

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2021-09-08 18:17:21Z
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