It was widely reported Sunday that as the Taliban was at the gates of Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani was quick to flee the country towards neighboring Tajikistan. This no doubt signaled national troops on the ground that there was little point in putting up much resistance, given their commander-in-chief had high-tailed it out at the first sign of enemies closing in, while not even so much as addressing the Afghan people.
According to a Russian embassy statement on Monday, the circumstances of Ghani's departure are even worse, with the embassy in Kabul saying Ghani "had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in," according to RIA news agency quotes cited in Reuters.
His precise whereabouts are now unknown, with Russian officials taking the opportunity to slam his cowardice as the Afghan population suffers.
"As for the collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterized by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan," spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, Nikita Ishchenko was quoted as saying. There's little doubt the Russians further intended the statements as a biting criticism of Washington's 20-year long failed war.
"Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac," he added. The embassy cited "witnesses" who beheld the bizarre scene on the airport runway.
An aide to President Vladimir Putin was also cited as saying, "I hope the government that has fled did not take all the money from the state budget. It will be the bedrock of the budget if something is left."
The Russian Embassy in Kabul has confirmed that Afghan president Ashraf Ghani attempted to smuggle a vast sum of money as he fled the country.— Murad Gazdiev (@MuradGazdiev) August 16, 2021
Earlier reports alleged that he was forced to abandon 5 million dollars, stuffed in bags, at the airport
One regional report suggested Ghani is now in Oman after his plane was said to have been denied entry into Tajikistan. While nothing is confirmed in terms of his location, there's speculation he could eventually make it to the United States - perhaps a parallel situation to when the US-backed Shah fled Iran for the US in 1979.
Over 20 years and some $2.5 trillion of US taxpayer dollars later, Ghani apparently took pallets of cash for himself.
The Kremlin meanwhile has announced it plans to keep the Russian embassy in Kabul open for the time being, at a moment multiple Western embassies have effectively relocated their operations to the international airport. But given the rapid security deterioration at Karzai International Airport, such operations will be short-lived.
President Ashraf Ghani three months ago:— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 15, 2021
Q: How long can your government last without US support?
A: Forever. pic.twitter.com/Bq3Bonep25
China, at the same time, appears to be moving toward formal recognition of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Chinese media is also now generally mocking the Americans departing under such humiliating circumstances.
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According to the latest reports, the Taliban have actually sent guards to the Russian and Chinese embassies:
Currently, only the embassies of Russia and China are functioning in Afghanistan. Both are being guarded by the Taliban.https://t.co/oL8YWWalzx— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) August 16, 2021