Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who abandoned his country as the Taliban closed in, has taken refuge in the United Arab Emirates, it was revealed Wednesday.
The UAE’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged that it had welcomed the 72-year-old leader — whose whereabouts were unknown after his Sunday escape from Kabul — on “humanitarian grounds.”
“The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Afghan leader snuck out of the presidential palace Sunday with his inner circle of confidantes, and, according to the Russian embassy in Kabul, fled with four vehicles and a helicopter full of cash. Some reports had suggested that he bolted to a neighboring country, like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or Oman.
There were questions about whether other nations, including the US, had played a part in helping him escape. The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
In a social media post, Ghani claimed he had fled in order to save lives, writing, “If I had stayed, countless of my countrymen would be martyred and Kabul would face destruction and turn into ruins that could result to a human catastrophe for its six million residents.”
Politicians and experts, however, say his sudden departure hampered negotiations for a smooth transfer of power with the Taliban — and that Ghani left his own people in the lurch, facing chaos and dread about a return to the militant group’s brutal rule.
Ghani — an academic who holds a doctorate from New York City’s Columbia University — was once a professor who taught at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, where he and wife Rula raised their two kids, Mariam and Tarek. Their daughter, Mariam Ghani, 42, is now a successful artist and filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn.
Before he returned to Afghanistan in 2001, Ghani worked at the UN and World Bank.
He was first elected president in 2014 on a promise to remake the country. But he grew increasingly isolated over his seven years in office, and was ultimately cut out of talks between Washington and the Taliban that paved the way for the US exit from Afghanistan.
The Taliban dismissed him as a “puppet,” and he spent much of his last months in office holed up in the presidential palace, delivering televised diatribes to the Afghan people.
With Post wires