Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled country with only the clothes he was wearing, an official says

Ashraf Ghani
Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Afghanistan's former president, Ashraf Ghani, was so dumbfounded by the rapid pace at which the Taliban advanced on the capital city of Kabul that he left the country with only the clothes he had on, according to a former senior official who spoke to CNN.

Last Saturday, even after the key northern provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif fell to insurgents amid a sweeping military campaign across Afghanistan, Ghani was ill-prepared to depart the county in such a hasty manner.

Hours before the now-ousted president fled in exile, the official said that a senior member of the Ghani administration met with an individual with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who said that the ruling government needed to surrender.

"In the days leading up to the Taliban coming in Kabul, we had been working on a deal with the US to hand over peacefully to an inclusive government and for President Ghani to resign," the former official told CNN. "These talks were underway when the Taliban came into the city. The Taliban entering Kabul city from multiple points was interpreted by our intelligence as hostile advances."

The former official added: "We had received intelligence for over a year that the President would be killed in the event of a takeover."

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a 'black hole' to help their Afghan interpreters

Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Sunday fled north to the Panjshir Valley, according to the former official, with other individuals leaving the presidential complex "shortly after when there was gunfire outside the palace."

"At that point, our goal was to save the city and its citizens from fighting in the streets," the former official told CNN. "This was maintained and the deal we had started negotiating [that] continues today in the hands of [former Afghan chief executive] Abdullah Abdullah and [former President Hamid] Karzai."

He added: "Before Kandahar fell, a strategy of consolidating forces was drawn with the help of US forces. However, the speed of collapse, which no one foresaw, never allowed for the consolidation of forces to be completed."

The former official further described the manner in which Ghani left the country in exile.

"He went to Termez in Uzbekistan, where he spent one night and then from there to the UAE [United Arab Emirates]. There was no money with him. He literally just had the clothes he was wearing," he said.

In a videotaped statement, Ghani on Wednesday said that he fled the country to avoid being lynched by the Taliban.

"If I had stayed in Afghanistan," he said, "the people of Afghanistan would have witnessed the president hanged once more."

Ghani referred to the 1996 murder of former President Mohammad Najibullah, who was executed after the Taliban seized control of the country and took over Kabul.

The ousted president vowed to return to the country and denied allegations leveled by Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, who said that he stole nearly $169 million from the country as he fled in exile.

"Accusations were charged in these days that money was transferred, these accusations are fully baseless," Ghani said on Wednesday.

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