Ashraf Ghani: who is the president of Afghanistan, where is he now - and what has he said about the Taliban

In a video address posted on Wednesday, Mr Ghani denied fleeing and said he left Afghanistan to prevent what he described as a “huge disaster”.

President Ashraf Ghani is being hosted in the United Arab Emirates after he fled Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s takeover, the Gulf nation has confirmed.

The UAE’s foreign ministry said the country had welcomed Mr Ghani and his family on humanitarian grounds.

There was widespread speculation of Mr Ghani’s whereabouts after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on Sunday, with reports indicating he was in neighbouring Uzbekistan or Tajikistan.

In a video address posted on Wednesday (18 August), Mr Ghani denied fleeing and said he left Afghanistan to prevent what he described as a “huge disaster”.

The 72-year-old has faced criticism from other Afghan politicians and US President Joe Biden for leaving the country.

Here’s all you need to know about who Ashraf Ghani is, and what he has said about the Taliban.

Who is Ashraf Ghani?

Ashraf Ghani has served as President of Afghanistan between September 2014 until he left the country in August 2021.

Mr Ghani was an academic, serving on the faculty at Kabul University, Aarhus University, Denmark and John Hopkins, United States. He later joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East and South Asian.

His first post in government was a chief advisor to President Hamid Karzai in the new Afghan government formed in 2002.

After serving terms as the Finance Minister of Afghanistan, and an unsuccessful campaign in the 2009 Presidential Election, Mr Ghani won the 2014 Presidential Election with 55.4 per cent of the vote.

Mr Ghani has come under withering criticism for his performance during his incumbency as Afghanistan’s leader and the way in which he fled during the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Where is Ashraf Ghani now?

After days of speculation that Mr Ghani has left the country, the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday (18 August) that he had taken refuge in the Gulf nation.

The 72-year-old defended his decision to leave Afghanistan during the takeover in a social media post on late Sunday (15 August), writing: “If I had stayed, countless of my countrymen would be martyred and Kabul would face destruction.”

Rumours circulated of his whereabouts since his departure, with reports suggesting he had gone to neighbouring Uzbekistan or Tajikistan.

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

“The U.A.E. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the U.A.E. has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” the ministry said.

Mr Ghani has as said claims he took a large amount of money with him when he fled Kabul are “completely baseless” and “lies”.

The Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan, Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, claimed the 72-year-old escaped with $169m (£123m) from state funds and called on international police to arrest him.

What has Ashraf Ghani said about the Taliban takeover?

In a statement on Wednesday (18 August) Mr Ghani said he supports “the government initiative of ongoing negotiations with Abdullah Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai,” wanting success for the process.

"I am in consultation for my return to Afghanistan so that I can continue efforts for justice, true Islamic and national values,” Mr Ghani said.

Speaking in a live broadcast on his official Facebook page, Mr Ghani said he had to leave his country in order to prevent bloodshed.

He said he was "forced" to leave Kabul, according to a translation by the Al Jazeera TV station.

Mr Ghani said: "If I had stayed I would have been witnessing bloodshed in Kabul."

He also claimed he was "forced to leave Afghanistan with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals I was wearing".

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