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Ashraf Ghani leaves Kabul 'to prevent bloodshed'

August 16, 2021

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban militants entered the Afghan capital. Afghan leaders are reportedly forming a council to arrange a transfer of power.

People walk by a mural of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan
Ghani spent most of his life outside his homeland, returning in 2001 to serve in a wide range of government posts.Image: Rahmat Gul/AP Photo/picture alliance

Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani defended his decision to leave the country as the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.

Ghani's departure comes after the Islamist militants captured most of Afghanistan in a lightning offensive that lasted less than two weeks. 

What did Ghani say?

In a statement released on Facebook following his departure, Ghani said he made the decision to leave in order to "prevent a flood of bloodshed."

"The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honor, property and self-preservation of their countrymen," he said.

"They are now facing a new historical test.  Either they will preserve the name and honor of Afghanistan or they will give priority to other places and networks," Ghani added.

The Afghan leader did not say where he had fled to. Afghan media group Tolo reported that he'd traveled to Tajikistan.

His departure was sharply criticized by Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan peace process, who accused Ghani of "leaving the people to this situation."

What happens now?

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen earlier told Qatar's Al-Jazeera English satellite news channel that the insurgents were awaiting "a peaceful transfer" of the city.

Hours after news broke that Ghani had left, Taliban militants seized control of the presidential palace. Al-Jazeera broadcast footage of a Taliban "press conference" in the palace, the center of Afghanistan's government. 

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said other Afghan leaders have formed a council to meet with the Taliban and manage the transfer of power.

A turbulent end to Ghani's 7 years in power

The 72-year-old first came to power in 2014, winning 55% of the votes in the country's presidential election by vowing to root out corruption.

He was re-elected for a second term five years later.

An economist by training, Ghani previously served as Afghanistan's finance minister between July 2002 and December 2004, and was a key part of transitioning the country from Taliban rule after their ouster by US forces in 2001. .

jf/wmr (Reuters, AFP)