Tracing the Rise and Fall of Ashraf Ghani, the President Who Fled Afghanistan
Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled from Kabul as the Taliban approached the city for a takeover on 15 August.
"In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it was best to get out," Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani stated on Sunday, 15 August, hours after fleeing Kabul before the Taliban takeover of the capital.
"The former president has left Afghanistan, leaving the people to this situation," Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the country's High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a video message later on Sunday, as several Twitter users branded the president as a coward.
After President Ghani vacated the presidential power on Sunday ahead of the Taliban's approach, the militant organisation seized control of the country's reigns.
Here's all you need to know about Ashraf Ghani, the president whose administration, and faith, crumpled in the face of the Taliban.
World Bank Scholar, Professor of Anthropology: Ghani Outside of Afghanistan
Born to an influential family in Afghanistan's Logar in 1949, Ghani, from his early days, had been given a taste of politics by his father, who had worked in the government.
Ghani pursued his bachelor's degree in 1973 from the American University in Lebanon's Beirut, following which he returned to Afghanistan to teach Afghan studies and Anthropology at the Kabul University.
In 1977, Ghani left Afghanistan to pursue a Master's degree in Anthropology from Columbia University in New York, where he studied on a government scholarship. After completing his PhD from the same Ivy League university, Ghani went to serve as a professor at the renowned University of California and the Johns Hopkins University.
Ghani joined the World Bank in 1991 as lead anthropologist, advising on the human dimension to economic programs. During his tenure, he worked on the bank’s social policy, reviewing of country strategies, conditionalities, and designing reform programs.
Ghani spent 24 years of his early life outside Afghanistan, as his home country withstood the manifold ravages of the Soviet rule, civil war, and the Taliban reign.
Ghani's Return to Afghanistan
In 2001, the year which saw the dethroning of the Taliban after a massive military invasion by the US, Ghani returned to his home country after a quarter of a century.
Serving as the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General's envoy to Afghanistan, Ghani contributed to the design, negotiation, and implementation of the historic Bonn Agreement, which laid down the roadmap for the formation of new, popularly-elected government in Afghanistan.
Ghani's Political Trajectory
Ghani's political career commenced under the tutelage of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his interim administration which was instated in 2002.
Ghani also served as the Finance Minister in the transitional government under Karzai till 2004, a role in which he led various significant reforms against corruption and was also responsible for the issuing of the new Afghan currency, Afghani.
When Karzai came to power in 2004, Ghani quit his administrative position, taking a brief interlude from active politics. He went back to academics in the hiatus, taking up the role of the Chancellor of Kabul University from 2005-2009.
In 2005, Ghani co-founded the Institute for State Effectiveness alongside scholar Clare Lockhart, which aimed towards the fostering of economic development, peace, and stability in post-conflict world. In 2008, he co-authored the guidebook Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.
Making a return to Afghan politics in 2009, Ghani gave up his US citizenship to contest the presidential elections, only to see a dismal defeat wherein he landed at the fourth position with merely 4 percent of the votes, Reuters reported. Karzai was voted in as president for another term, while Abdullah Abdullah came in second in the polls.
In 2010, Ghani was appointed as the chairman of the Transition Coordination Commission, which was formed to oversee the transfer of power from ISAF/NATO troops to Afghan security forces.
He was finally elected president in September 2014 with popular consensus, garnering 55.27 percent of the total votes, while Abdullah Abdullah came in second once again, with 39.52 percent of the votes.
Ghani's presidency was confirmed after a bitter fight over the poll results between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who was given the position of chief executive of the Afghanistan.
His contesting of the elections with alleged Uzbek warlord and human rights offender General Abdul Rashid Dostum had also invited censure, news agency Reuters has reported.
Ghani was re-elected for a second term in 2019, when he had promised to 'finish the job' of ending the country's war with Taliban, Bloomberg had reported.
'Worst Job on Earth': Ghani's Presidency
Discussing the challenges of security and administration in a country whose control was disputed by the Taliban, Ghani, in an interview with the BBC in 2017, had stated, "This is the worst job on Earth."
"We were like 12-year-olds taking on the responsibility of a 30-year-old; but we really grew in the process. Now in terms of management and leadership things are really falling into place," he had said then.
During Ghani's seven-year-long tenure, Afghanistan improved its trade relations with Central Asian nations such as Uzbekistan, and new trade routes were formed in the corresponding region.
His anti-corruption policies, however, did not make much headway. In September 2019, the US declared that it would withdraw about $100m earmarked for an energy project in Afghanistan, citing the unchecked corruption in the country's government as the reason, BBC reported.
Under Ghani, the Afghanistan government conducted peace talks with the Taliban on several occasions. While the government has been holding sporadic negotiations with the Taliban since it was formed in 2002, the peace talks gained traction in 2018.
The militant organisation, which saw Ghani as a puppet of the US, refused to engage in fruitful dialogue with his administration, news agency AFP reported. The lack of progress of the dialogue between the two conflicting parties under Ghani's rule led to censure from foreign governments, as per a Reuters report.
The last round of peace talks between the Taliban and the Ghani-led Afghanistan government took place in Qatar capital city Doha in July 2021, following which Ghani stated that the Taliban was not willing to maintain peace in the country. “We want peace, but they want our surrender,” he said, Bloomberg reported.
The Flee and the Fall of Ghani
With the withdrawal of a majority of the American troops stationed in Afghanistan since 2001, the Taliban, which had hitherto dominated the countryside, rapidly expanded its control in Afghanistan's provincial capitals over the last few weeks, toppling the government control in major cities such as Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.
As the Taliban advanced towards the capital city Kabul on 15 August, Ghani made an escape from the falling country, later saying that he left Afghanistan in order to avoid violence and bloodshed.
In his first statement since the terror organisation took over the presidential palace in Afghanistan, Ghani said, "The Taliban have made it to remove me; they are here to attack all Kabul and the people of Kabul."
"Taliban have won the judgement of sword and guns and now they are responsible for protecting the countrymen's honor, wealth and self-esteem," he admitted in the statement posted on Facebook, adding, "Never in history has dry power given legitimacy to anyone and won't give it to them."
His fleeing from the country, surrendering to the Taliban takeover, has garnered widespread censure. "God hold him accountable, and the people will have their judgment," his long-running rival Abdullah Abdullah said in a video message posted on social media, AFP reported.
(With inputs from Reuters, AFP, BBC, and Bloomberg)
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