After the Taliban’s sudden military takeover of Afghanistan, the media reported stories alleging Ghani stole more than $150 million of public funds when he fled, fueling public anger against the former leader for leaving Afghanistan. Ghani’s departure is seen by many as the watershed event that allowed Taliban forces to enter Kabul and take full control of the country.
US watchdog details collapse of Afghan security forces
SIGAR said Ghani’s theft of millions of dollars was “unlikely”, but said the former president left with the money, adding that “evidence indicates that this number did not exceed 1 million. dollars and could have been closer to $500,000”.
The report quotes a former senior official who fled with Ghani in the helicopters as saying, “Everyone had between $5,000 and $10,000 in their pockets. … No one had millions. The official was not named in the public version of the assessment. Ghani has also repeatedly denied the theft allegations.
Among the reasons SIGAR found unlikely that Ghani stole millions as he fled the country were details of his final hours at the palace. SIGAR determined that Ghani’s departure was sudden, giving the chief or his assistants no time to recover the money.
The report also assessed that more than $150 million in hundred-dollar bills “would have been difficult to conceal” and if “stacked end to end…they would be somewhat larger than a standard American three-seater sofa” .
Ghani and many of those who fled with him live in the United Arab Emirates, which took him and his family in for humanitarian reasons.
But tens of millions of people are still missing. SIGAR found evidence of “5 million dollars taken from the presidential palace and tens of millions taken from the safe of the National Directorate of Security”, the main intelligence agency of the former Afghan government. The investigation did not determine whether the money was taken out of the country by government officials.
“With Afghan government records and surveillance footage from the past few days likely in the hands of the Taliban, SIGAR is currently unable to determine how much money was ultimately stolen and by whom,” the report said.
One of the largest budgets SIGAR is investigating is the estimated $70 million in cash in the hands of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency for discretionary use such as funding “anti-Taliban militias and to maintain the support from brokers and local communities”. When the Taliban reached the safe on August 15, only a few Afghan banknotes remained, a former senior official told SIGAR. The official was also not named in the public version of the report.
The report said its investigation into the stolen Afghan assets is ongoing.