The official, who refused to be identified, alleged that Uzbeks, upset with the “intrusion”, did not allow the team to stay for long and subsequently Ghani’s team left for the UAE in a chartered aircraft confirming reports that Ghani and some members of his team are currently in the UAE.
The unnamed official, during his interview to 8 AM.AF, also recounted the confusion in the then Presidential set-up in the run-up to the escape on August 15. The publisher of Kabul-based portal Sanjar Sohail, spoke to one of the 53 people who fled Kabul with Ghani on August 15 who recounted all the events that an eyewitness observed from 8 am Sunday (August 15) to Monday night.
“As usual, I left home at around 8 am to go to work at the Presidential Palace (ARG)… Every day, as usual, a meeting was held at 9:00 am, attended by Ashraf Ghani, Hamdullah Muhib, National Security Advisor, Matin Beg, head of the presidential office, Fazl Mahmood Fazli, head of the administrative office of the President, and others. At this meeting, it was decided that cabinet members should be called immediately for an emergency meeting. The purpose of the cabinet meeting was to find a way to prevent panic, confusion, and chaos in Kabul,” 8M.AF quoted the official as saying.
Employees at the Office of the President immediately invited the ministers to attend an emergency cabinet meeting. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that about 50% of the Cabinet members were either outside Kabul (some in the provinces) or living abroad. At the same time, it was reported that Amrullah Saleh, the first vice-president, had gone to Panjshir two days ago and had not yet returned. Sarwar Danish, the second vice-president, also attended a pre-scheduled public meeting in the west of Kabul, recounted the official.
“Ghani’s senior advisor on peace, Salam Rahimi, contacted Taliban representatives and Khalilzad’s colleagues in Doha, Qatar, urging them not to allow Taliban forces to enter Kabul. Rahimi, after a few minutes of conversation, returned, saying that the Taliban won’t enter Kabul…they ordered us to go to the helicopters. Since some of the President’s bodyguards were still stationed at the Ministry of Defense headquarters, waiting for the President to arrive, I thought we would fly to the Ministry of Defense. We all hurried to the four waiting helicopters on the grounds of the Presidential Palace. The helicopters flew and, contrary to our expectations, not to the Defense Ministry. Instead, they flew to the north of the country.” The unnamed official claimed that Ghani’s family had planned to leave for the UAE ahead of August 15.
The official recalled, “The pilots contacted Tajik officials through their own communications devices. They wanted to have an emergency landing in that country. The Tajik side didn’t respond… At that moment, it was decided to go to…Uzbekistan.”
Subsequently, the entourage force landed in Uzbekistan on August 15 itself and the unnamed official alleged the Uzbek military did not offer appropriate treatment. After 31 hours in Termez, they flew to Abu Dhabi in a chartered aircraft.