After days of speculation about the whereabouts of President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan last weekend as the Taliban surrounded Kabul, the United Arab Emirates said Wednesday that he had taken refuge in the Gulf nation.

In his first video address since he fled Afghanistan, Ghani, 72, said he had left the country to avoid a lynching by the Taliban and vowed to return.

In a videotaped statement posted on his Facebook page from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday evening, Ghani said that, despite an agreement that the Taliban would not enter the city of Kabul, his guards warned him Sunday afternoon that the insurgents had reached the walls of the presidential palace in central Kabul.

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

His statement referred to the murder of Afghan President Najibullah, who was executed and strung up in a public square after the Taliban seized the capital in 1996.

Ghani denied reports from people, among them the Russian envoy in Kabul, Zamir Kabulov, that he had left with crates of cash. He said he had passed through customs on arrival in the United Arab Emirates.


“I came just with my clothes, and I was not even able to bring my library,” he said.

Looking tired and thin, Ghani was serious and firm in his delivery of a speech that he read from written pages. He said he had tried to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict but had also been coordinating the defense of Kabul right up until his departure.

“The security forces did not fail us,” he said, “it was the political elite of the government and the international community who failed.”

He said he had every intention to return to Afghanistan and was in touch with the political leaders Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who were in discussions with the Taliban. He pointed out that previous Afghan leaders had been forced to flee, including the first Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who fled the U.S. intervention in 2001.

Ghani has come under withering criticism for his performance during his tenure as Afghanistan’s leader and the ignominious way in which he fled, speeding the government’s collapse.

It was a spectacular fall for a World Bank-trained technocrat who holds a doctorate from Columbia University. He is the author of a book titled “Fixing Failed States.”


Instead of fixing Afghanistan during his nearly seven years in power, Ghani fled much in the same way he governed: isolated from all but a handful of advisers who are said to have departed with him.

The fallout was swift as what semblance of civil government that was left in Kabul collapsed.

For days, rumors swirled about where he might have sought refuge. Some reports suggested that he had gone to neighboring Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, or perhaps Oman. There was talk that Saudi Arabia had agreed to give him asylum, and rumors that he had been accompanied by as many as 200 aides, ministers and members of parliament.

There were also reports that he had fled with piles of cash and questions about whether the United States had played any role in his departure.

The UAE’s foreign ministry confirmed in a brief statement that he was in the country.

“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.