Ghani left the sprawling presidential palace quietly with a small group of confidants. He didn't tell any other political leaders, who were negotiating peaceful transitions of power with Taliban, that he was leaving.
Abdullah Abdullah was his long-time rival, who twice put aside his animosity in order to partner with Ghani and said that God would hold him responsible for abandoning the capital.
Ghani's destination wasn't immediately known. Ghani wrote in a post on social media that he had left to save lives. Ghani wrote, "If I had stayed countless of my fellow countrymen would have been martyred and Kabul might face destruction and become ruins that could lead to a human disaster for its six million inhabitants."
Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai had repeatedly tried to get to Ghani's doors to ask him to compromise over retaining power. They were both blindsided by Ghani’s hasty departure. According to Saad Mohseni (the owner of Afghanistan's TOLO TV), they said that they still hoped to negotiate a peaceful transfer with the Taliban.
He said, "He left them to their lurch." Karzai, surrounded by his three daughters and posting a message on Facebook to the nation to reassure Kabul residents, had earlier posted the message to them Sunday.
He discovered that the presidential palace was abandoned just hours later.
"Ghani's inability of uniting the country and his proclivity for surrounding himself with his cadre of Western educated intellectuals brought Afghanistan here," stated Bill Roggio. Roggio is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This research institute is based in the U.S. "As Afghanistan fell apart, he refused the solutions and isolated himself even more from the power brokers that he needed to address the problem and the Afghan people."
Ghani's style was often described as arrogant and cantankerous. He rarely listened to the advice of his government, and he often publicly blasted anyone who tried to challenge him.
Ethnic minorities accused him of supporting the Pashtuns as a counter to Taliban. He was a savior of other ethnic minorities, and the gap between Afghanistan’s various ethnic groups grew wider.
Ghani was enrolled in anger management classes as he campaigned for president in 2014. Multiple tribal elders who met with Ghani have complained about his verbal savagery.
Ghani's critics claim that his harsh leadership style is partly to blame for the rapid deintegration of Afghanistan's army and anti-Taliban alliance made up of warlords who fled to or surrendered to insurgents, rather than fighting for a popular president.
Michael Kugelman (deputy director, Asia Program at U.S.-based Wilson Center), said that "His downfall was insistence on centralizing power and a stubborn refusal of bringing more people under his tent." His inability to devise a strategy to deal with the Taliban insurgency, and his perceptions that he was hindering the peace process were also problems later on.
Ghani, 72 years old, spent his entire career abroad as a student and an academic, before returning to Afghanistan in 2002.
He came with strong economic credentials. With his World Bank experience, he was appealing to the West and considered a potential solution to Afghanistan's corrupt and crumbling economy. From 2004 to 2004, he was the finance minister. He was able to survive cancer.
He ran for the presidency in 2014, his first attempt at it. The race was criticised for being deeply flawed, and widespread fraud allegations threatened to destabilize the fragile nation. Both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory. The United States reached a deal and split power between the two men. They also created a new chief executive position.
The results of the 2019 election were similar. Both Abdullah and Ghani were accused of corruption again. After months of bickering, they finally came to an agreement and Abdullah was elected head of the National Reconciliation Council. This council brought together Afghanistan's warlords as well as political leaders to present a united front to the Taliban.
But Ghani's belligerent operating style undermined him again.
Torek Farhadi, an ex-advisor to the Afghan government, said that he worked with a small group of "yes" men and received filtered news about Afghanistan from them. He was the only one who would speak truth to others. Ghani replaced all the experienced personnel in the army, and the government with younger people who were subordinate to him. Ghani was the man who turned a traditional country upside down.
Ghani was asked by Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. peace envoy, to put together a strong team that could negotiate with the Taliban. Efforts quickly faltered.
Antony Blinken, a frustrated U.S. Secretaryof State, urged Ghani in April to take a united stand. He advised the president to be inclusive and expand his circle.
"Unity and inclusion .... Blinken wrote, "Unity and inclusivity are essential for the difficult work ahead."
Blinken stated that even with continued financial support from the United States for your forces after a withdrawal of the American military, I was concerned about the security situation and that the Taliban could gain rapid territorial gains.
Roggio of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies stated that there were many reasons for the government to collapse but that "Ghani wasn't the man to lead Afghanistan in its darkest hour."