Runaway Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since he left his country in the hands of the Taliban — and he denied reports that he fled with millions of dollars stuffed inside suitcases.
Speaking in a video from the United Arab Emirates, where he was welcomed on “humanitarian grounds” following his Sunday escape, Ghani maintained that he left Kabul with just the clothes on his back.
“I was forced to leave Afghanistan with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals I was wearing,” he said in the Facebook clip.
The Russian embassy in Kabul has claimed that Ghani quietly skipped town with four vehicles and a helicopter full of cash as the Taliban approached.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan on Wednesday accused the exiled leader of stealing $169 million from state coffers.
Ambassador Mohammad Zahir Aghbar blasted Ghani’s flight as “a betrayal of the state and the nation” and called on international police to arrest him.
In his video address Wednesday Ghani slammed the claims he left loaded with money as “completely baseless,” adding it was a “political and personality assassination.”
“You can find out from custom officials and other authorities that they were baseless,” he said of the allegations.
Ghani, 72, had previously defended leaving Afghanistan, saying it was a way to prevent bloodshed.
“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,” he wrote in a previous social media post.
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.
With Post wires