Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has denied taking millions of dollars with him when he fled Kabul last week as Taliban fighters entered the city.
Ghani has reappeared in the United Arab Emirates, where authorities said his family had been welcomed on humanitarian grounds.
Making his first comments since leaving Afghanistan, via a speech broadcast on his Facebook page, Ghani said he had no choice but to leave in order to prevent widespread violence.
“If I had stayed, I would be witnessing bloodshed in Kabul,” Ghani said, adding that he was rushed out by his security team during his last hours in the capital on Sunday.
“Kabul should not be turned into another Yemen or Syria over power struggles. So, I was forced to leave.”
Ghani said reports that he had taken tens of millions of dollars with him when he left the country were part of a smear campaign against him.
“I left with just a waistcoat and some clothes. The personality assassination against me has been ongoing, saying that I have taken money with me,” Ghani said.
Ghani, a professor of anthropology and former World Bank employee who served as president since 2014, said that events unfolded so rapidly he barely had time to put his shoes on.
The 72-year-old has come under overwhelming criticism from home and abroad for deserting his position as Taliban forces entered Kabul.
Although he said he aimed to negotiate an “inclusive government” with the Taliban, the likelihood of Ghani returning to Afghanistan in the near future is extremely slim.