Afghanistan’s central bank governor tells of his escape as the Taliban closed in on Kabul

The former governor of Afghanistan’s central bank has told Sky News how he escaped the country with only the clothes he was wearing “and one shoe”.

Ajmal Ahmady, who was also an adviser to former president Ashraf Ghani, spoke as efforts continue to get people out of Afghanistan while the Taliban strengthens its control.

Mr Ahmady, 43, said: “At the end of the day, the only reason I was able to get out was – it was a very surreal experience – we were on the tarmac (at Kabul’s international airport), with various helicopters and other planes taking off.

“A Kam Air flight was filled with three times the limit of what it should have been filled with.

“I saw a military plane of a third country – this wasn’t a US plane – and everyone was scrambling to get on board and I was pushed up by colleagues to get on that flight from one of those military convoys where the back rail was going up.

“I made it on board with no possessions, the clothes you see me wearing, and one shoe – and that’s how I made it out of Afghanistan.”

Mr Ahmady, who has previously worked in asset management, securities and consulting, said he had initially gone to work on Sunday morning as normal, despite knowing that Taliban fighters were getting closer to Kabul.

The day before that, he had met with President Ashraf Ghani for what would be their last work meeting, discussing “economic issues related to the short term but looking out to one week”.

A man pulls a girl to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
Kabul’s international airport was chaotic during the weekend as Afghans tried to escape the Taliban

He said the situation had been “deteriorating very rapidly” but there was hope that the Taliban were still a few days away from the capital – hope that turned out to be misplaced.

“As the news I received deteriorated and looked worse, I left my office around noon and went to the airport and there I was able to book a flight for that evening which was subsequently cancelled,” he said.

“…Things were calm until news that the president had resigned and left the country. At that point, it became a little chaotic.

“People reached out and ran to the tarmac, tried to attempt to get on various planes that were leaving and fortunately I was on board one such plane.”

Mr Ahmady, who did not say where his flight had landed, criticised the former president and the lack of a contingency plan as the Taliban came closer, adding: “I think that’s where my disappointment arose from.”

Mr Ahmady, who left deputies in charge of the central bank – Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), said that he expected “significant economic hurdles” lay ahead for the country.

He said: “”I would expect the US would freeze the international reserves and make that inaccessible to the Taliban.

“If that happens, the international reserves, instead of being more than $9bn (£6.5bn), will become whatever remains in the country – a very small fraction.

“As a result, the currency is likely to depreciate and inflation is likely to spike, and that’s going to make it more costly for everyone to buy basic commodities such as food, wheat for bread etc.”

“Given that information, I’m fearful for the economic future of Afghanistan.”

The bank is thought to have foreign currency, gold and other treasures in its vaults but most of its assets are held outside Afghanistan.

Central banks, especially in developing countries, often keep their assets overseas with institutions such as the Bank of England or the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

A US official confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday: “Any central bank assets the Afghan government have in the US will not be made available to the Taliban.”

Mr Ahmady, who was born in Afghanistan but educated in the US, said he was unlikely to return to his homeland in an official capacity, adding: “I’m happy to contribute as I can but I’ve spent seven years there to the best of my ability trying to make a difference.

“Seven years in any government is a long time and, given the situation, I’d probably provide support from a distance.”

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