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This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the aftermath of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago this week.
A year after a Taliban offensive across Afghanistan slammed into Kabul and toppled the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, questions linger over the actions of the bankrupt republic’s last internationally recognized president, Ashraf Ghani.
“No power in the world could persuade me to get on a plane and leave this country. This is a country I love and I will die defending it,” Ghani sadly told Der Spiegel in May 2021.
However, Ghani broke that promise a few months later, gathering his family and flying out of Afghanistan as Taliban forces invaded Kabul. The former president was immediately criticized for what some said were cowardly actions, while reports began to circulate that Ghani had fled with millions of dollars from the Afghan treasury.
Rumors spread in the days after Ghani fled his country that he had landed in Tajikistan or neighboring Uzbekistan, but it was later revealed that he had traveled to the United Arab Emirates and there. was staying in a house at an undisclosed location.
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The United Arab Emirates took in the former Afghan president and his family on humanitarian grounds, where Ghani quickly moved to defend his actions.
“Dear compatriots! Today I faced a difficult choice; I had to face the armed Taliban who wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I have dedicated my life to protect and protect these twenty years,” Ghani said in a Facebook post hours after leaving the country. “The Taliban managed to kidnap me, they are here to attack all of Kabul and the people of Kabul. In order to avoid the bloody flood, I thought it best to get out.”
Less than a month later, the former president again explained that he had left Afghanistan to avoid heavy fighting in the nation’s capital during an apology to the Afghan people.
“Leaving Kabul was the hardest decision of my life, but I thought it was the only way to silence the guns and save Kabul and its 6 million people,” he said in a statement. press release posted on Twitter.
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A US report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) later found there was a lack of evidence to support the claim that Ghani fled Afghanistan with millions of dollars, but said it was likely he had around $500,000.
“Although SIGAR discovered that cash was taken from the palace grounds and loaded onto these helicopters, the evidence indicates that this number did not exceed $1 million and could have been closer to $500,000” , Special Inspector General John Sopko wrote in a letter to House and Senate leaders. “Most of this money would come from several Afghan government operating budgets normally managed at the palace.”
In the months since his exit from Afghanistan and his statements on social media, Ghani has mostly kept a low profile. That changed earlier this month, with Ghani giving a rare interview to CNN in which he again defended his final days as president.
“I got on a plane because it became impossible to defend it,” Ghani said in the interview, noting that his defense minister had told him the country could no longer be defended and that the ministry had already been evacuated.
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“I was the last to leave, and the reason I left was that I didn’t want to give the Taliban and their supporters the pleasure of once again humiliating an Afghan president,” he said.
Ghani used the interview to criticize the “incredibly flawed” deal with the Taliban negotiated under former President Trump and implemented by President Biden, but made it clear he did not blame the United States for the collapse of the government he oversaw.
“We have to focus on what is now in front of us,” Ghani said. “Our country is in a terrible state. I don’t have the luxury of committing blame or [a] feeling of betrayal.”
He also dismissed comparisons between himself and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, arguing that the situation he faced was very different from that of the Ukrainian leader, who chose to stay in his country as Russian forces closed in. from Kyiv.
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“President Zelenskyy was briefed in detail by the CIA on the upcoming Russian invasion,” Ghani explained. “Not a single piece of paper was offered to us by our allies.”
However, Ghani also expressed hope that one day he could return to Afghanistan, pointing out that his family has been in the same village for 500 to 600 years.
“I hope so. Absolutely. This is my home,” Ghani said of a possible return to Afghanistan. “I want to be able to help my county heal…and I hope I can do that from the place where every cell in my body belongs and where I always feel like a stranger.”
The former president did not back down in the face of criticism of his last act as leader of Afghanistan, stressing that he always did what he believed to be in the best interest of the people of his country.
“I lived an honorable life,” he said.