The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says the claim that former Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani transferred $169 million while fleeing the country is “unlikely to be true”.

According to a recent report provided by the SIGAR, the interim findings by indicate that on the day of the former Afghan government’s collapse, tens of millions of dollars had vanished from various departments of the previous administration, particularly the National Directorate of Security.

The interim findings of SIGAR indicate although that some cash was stolen from the palace grounds and carried onboard the helicopters carrying Ashraf Ghani, evidence suggests that the total amount did not surpass $1 million and was likely closer to $500,000.

Following the collapse of the Afghan government, numerous media outlets stated that former President Ashraf Ghani and his senior advisers escaped Afghanistan with millions of dollars in cash loaded onto helicopters that flew them from the presidential palace to Termez, Uzbekistan, on August 15, 2021.

The Russian embassy in Kabul claimed in the press that the helicopters contained $169 million, and the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, Zahir Aghbar, reiterated these assertions in a news conference two days later.  

Ambassador Aghbar also vowed to seek President Ghani’s arrest from Interpol. Aghbar, on the other hand, refused to speak with SIGAR or provide any evidence to support his claims.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, wrote to the US House of Representatives and the US Senate that “Although SIGAR found that some cash was taken from the grounds of the palace and loaded onto these helicopters, evidence indicates that this number did not exceed $1 million and may have been closer in value to $500,000”.

According to SIGAR’s report, $5 million in cash was allegedly left behind at the presidential palace and was supposedly split by members of the Presidential Protective Service (PPS) after the helicopters had left but before the Taliban seized the palace.

According to SIGAR, personnel of the PPS Office placed the money in multiple bags and attempted to transport it out of the palace’s main gate, which leads to the Ariana crossroads, using the previous president’s special motorcade.

When the guards of the palace at the Ariana crossroads stopped these PPS personnel, they claimed that they had been assigned to provide security and transfer Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president.

This $5 million, according to multiple former senior officials, was the president’s personal money, which was reported in his assets. In an interview with SIGAR, a former senior official asserted that this was the case, claiming that the president spent the money to help displaced Afghans even in the final days before the collapse.

Former government officials said that around $70 million in operational funding from the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) was used to arm and fund anti-Taliban militias, according to the report.

The official claimed that a group had threatened him to designate a person of their choice as the financial manager of the department. He said that he was offered an amount of 20 million, which is the half of the department’s budget, if he complied with their demands.

SIGAR  investigation reveals that a substantial amount of money was lost on the day of Kabul’s fall, including $5 million at the presidential palace and tens of millions in National Directorate of Security. However, SIGAR is unable to determine the exact amount of money stolen.

SIGAR’s report on the other hand, is an interim finding, and SIGAR will continue to collect data for its final report.

Author

  • Saqalain Eqbal is an Online Editor for Khaama Press. He is a Law graduate from The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).