Ashraf Ghani, in First Comments Since Taliban Takeover, Denies Fleeing With Cash

Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan, released a statement on Twitter on Wednesday in which he described his rationale for fleeing the country while also denying the widespread claim that he left with suitcases full of cash.

As the Taliban surrounded Kabul, then-President Ghani escaped the country and eventually took refuge in the United Arab Emirates. On August 15, he defended leaving with a social media post that stated: "If I had stayed, countless of my countrymen would be martyred and Kabul would face destruction."

There were also reports that Ghani fled with piles of cash, with varying reports describing the money in suitcases. The RIA news agency, a Russian state-owned media outlet, reported that he fled with four cars and a helicopter full of cash. BBC journalist Kawoon Khamoosh reported that the Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan said Ghani took with him $169 million.

In the Twitter statement on Wednesday, Ghani denied the reports, calling them "baseless allegations."

"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," he wrote.

"I welcome an official audit or financial investigation under UN auspices or any other appropriate independent body the veracity of my statements here."

The former Afghan leader has addressed the stories regarding the supposed money-filled suitcases before. In a video released August 18 on Facebook, Ghani claimed to have made it out of the country with a minimal amount of possessions.

"I was forced to leave Afghanistan with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals I was wearing," he said in the video.

In his Wednesday statement, Ghani explained his reasons for going into exile.

"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," he wrote. "Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believe it was the the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens."

He ended his statement with an apology and an admission of remorse for not establishing stability in his country during a presidency that began in 2014.

"I offer my profound appreciation and respect for the sacrifice of all Afghans, especially our Afghan soldiers and their families, through the last forty years. 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 apologize 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."

Updated 09/08/2021, 10:42 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include more comments from Ghani's most recent statement.

Ashraf Ghani Afghan President UAE
Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani released a statement Wednesday in which he denied fleeing Afghanistan. Above, Ghani gives a video statement released on August 18 from the United Arab Emirates. Ashraf Ghani