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Hacked Facebook Account Of Ousted Afghan President Calls For Cooperation With Taliban

Ashraf Ghani speaks in a televised address on Aug. 14, a day before Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, fell to the Taliban.
Rahmatullah Alizadah
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
Ashraf Ghani speaks in a televised address on Aug. 14, a day before Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, fell to the Taliban.

It must have seemed like a sudden about-face to his followers on Facebook: a message from Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan who fled the country in August ahead of a Taliban takeover, calling on the international community to "extend a hand of friendship" to Kabul's new rulers.

But then came the correction in the form of a message on the ousted leader's verified Twitter account. "The official Facebook page of Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has been hacked," it said in a Pashto-language post early Monday. "Until it is retrieved, the content published from yesterday onwards on the Facebook page is no longer valid."

The original Facebook message, which appears to have since been removed, reportedly called for other nations to "interact with the current government instead of alienating the Afghan people."

If the world "wants a prosperous and secure Afghanistan, it must extend a hand of friendship," the message reportedly said. "It cannot be influenced by hostility as it has experienced in the last twenty years."

Ghani says he left to prevent even more bloodshed

Days after fleeing the capital following the Taliban's lightning-fast takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15, the United Arab Emirates announced it had granted Ghani and his family permission to stay in the Gulf state on "humanitarian grounds."

Last month, Ghani posted a statement on Twitter saying he left the country "at the urging of palace security who advised me that to remain risked setting off the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s."

"Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life," he said.

He apologized that he "could not make it end differently" and said he had not meant to abandon the Afghan people but that "it was the only way."

He is denying allegations of corruption

In the statement, Ghani also pushed back on what he said were "baseless" accusations he had arrived in the UAE with "millions of dollars of cash belonging to the Afghan people," calling them "categorically false."

He said that corruption had plagued Afghanistan "for decades" and that he'd done his best as president to deal with it, but that he had "inherited a monster that could not easily or quickly be defeated."

"My wife and I have been scrupulous in our personal finances," he insisted. "I have publicly declared all of my assets."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.