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Ashraf Ghani

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Ashraf Ghani
اشرف غني
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi meeting the President of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on September 19, 2018 (cropped) (cropped).JPG
Ghani in 2018
5th President of Afghanistan
In office
29 September 2014 – 15 August 2021
Vice PresidentFirst VP:Second VP:
Chief ExecutiveAbdullah Abdullah (2014–2020)
Preceded byHamid Karzai
Succeeded byHibatullah Akhundzada (as Supreme Leader)
Chancellor of Kabul University
In office
22 December 2004 – 21 December 2008
Preceded byHabibullah Habib
Succeeded byHamidullah Amin
Minister of Finance
In office
2 June 2002 – 14 December 2004
PresidentHamid Karzai
Preceded byHedayat Amin Arsala
Succeeded byAnwar ul-Haq Ahady
Personal details
Born (1949-05-19) 19 May 1949 (age 73)
Logar, Kingdom of Afghanistan
United States (1964–2009)
Political partyIndependent
(m. 1975)
Children2, including Mariam Ghani
RelativesHashmat Ghani Ahmadzai (brother)
EducationAmerican University of Beirut (BA)
Columbia University (MA, PhD)

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai[a] (born 19 May 1949) is an Afghan politician, academic, and economist who served as the fifth president of Afghanistan and the second and final president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from September 2014 until August 2021, when his government was overthrown by the Taliban.

Born in Logar Province, Ghani went to the United States in the 1960s to study and later completed a bachelor's degree at the American University in Beirut. After receiving his PhD from Columbia University, he became a professor of anthropology at numerous institutions, mostly at Johns Hopkins University, before starting to work with the World Bank. He returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the collapse of the Taliban government, serving as the finance minister in Hamid Karzai's cabinet—where he was credited for creating a new afghani currency and a tax system[2] — until his resignation in December 2004 to become the dean of Kabul University. In 2005 he became a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, an independent initiative hosted by the United Nations Development Programme; that same year, Ghani gave a TED talk in which he discussed how to rebuild a broken state such as Afghanistan.[3] In 2013, he was ranked 50th in an online poll to name the world's top 100 intellectuals conducted by Foreign Policy magazine and second in a similar poll run by Prospect magazine.[4] He is also the co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, an American organization set up in 2005 to improve the ability of states to serve their citizens.

An independent politician and ideologically liberal,[5] Ghani came in fourth in the 2009 presidential election. Ghani ran in the 2014 presidential election securing fewer votes than rival Abdullah Abdullah in the first round, but winning a majority in the second round. Following political chaos, the United States intervened to form a unity government with Ghani as president and Abdullah as chief executive of Afghanistan.[6][7] Ghani was re-elected when the final results of the 2019 presidential elections were announced after a long delay on 18 February 2020.[8][9] He was sworn in as president for a second five-year term on 9 March 2020.[10] His tenure ended abruptly on 15 August 2021 as the Taliban took over Kabul, leading to Ghani fleeing Afghanistan and eventually taking refuge in the United Arab Emirates.[11][12] He said he was forced by his security team to leave the country because there was a chance that the Taliban would assassinate him, adding that he had no other choice in order to avoid widespread violence in Kabul.[13]

As president, Ghani was a visionary known for his intensity and energetic speeches.[14] He aimed to transform Afghanistan into a technocratic state, winning him support among young and mostly urban men and women,[15] leading to a young generation of educated figures taking up leading positions in cabinets. Ghani made extensive efforts to make peace with Taliban insurgents[16] and improving relations with Pakistan.[17] However many of his promises, such as fighting corruption and turning the country into a trade hub between central and south Asia, were left unfulfilled.[15] His position was also weakened by political rivalries,[15] his attempt to lessen the power of ex-warlords,[18] and an uneasy relationship with the United States regarding the war.[16] He was also criticized for being aloof and short-tempered, including being in denial during the Taliban's offensive in 2021.[15][19][20]

Early life[edit]

Ghani was born on 19 May 1949 in the Logar Province in the Kingdom of Afghanistan to Shah Pesand, a clerk worker, and Kawbaba Lodin, who hailed from Kandahar.[21] He belongs to the Ahmadzai Pashtun tribe.[22][23]

As a foreign exchange student, Ghani attended Lake Oswego High School (LOHS) in Lake Oswego, Oregon for the 1966–1967 school year, under the name Ashraf Ahmad,[24] and Ashraf Ahmad Zai. The American Field Service sponsored his foreign exchange stay.[25] He served on the student council.[26]

Other than his exchange year, his secondary-level schooling was done in Kabul.[22] He initially wanted to study law but then changed his major to cultural anthropology.[citation needed] Ghani attended the American University in Beirut, from which he received his bachelor's degree in 1973, and after that, he won a government scholarship to attend Columbia University, where he earned his master's degree in 1977. He only intended to be away for two years. However, after pro-Soviet forces came to power, most of the male members of his family were imprisoned, and Ghani stayed at Columbia, earning a PhD degree in 1983. He met his future wife, Rula, while studying there.[22] His doctoral thesis was titled ‘Production and domination: Afghanistan, 1747-1901’.[27] His thesis advisors included Conrad M. Arensberg, Richard Bulliet, Morton Fried, and Robert F. Murphy.[28]

Academic career[edit]

Following his bachelor's degree, Ghani served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973–77) and Aarhus University in Denmark (1977). Following his PhD degree, he was invited to teach at University of California, Berkeley in 1983, and then at Johns Hopkins University from 1983 to 1991. He has also attended the Harvard-INSEAD and World Bank-Stanford Graduate School of Business's leadership training program. His academic research was on state-building and social transformation. In 1985, he completed a year of fieldwork researching Pakistani madrassas as a Fulbright Scholar.[22]

World Bank[edit]

Ghani joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East and South Asia during the mid-1990s.[22]

Political career[edit]

Returning to Afghanistan after 24 years in December 2001, Ghani left his posts at the UN and World Bank to join the new Afghan government as the chief advisor to President Hamid Karzai on 1 February 2002.

After leaving Kabul University, Ghani co-founded the Institute for State Effectiveness[29] with Clare Lockhart, of which he was chairman. The institute put forward a framework proposing that the state should perform ten functions in order to serve its citizens. This framework was discussed by leaders and managers of post-conflict transitions at a meeting sponsored by the UN and World Bank in September 2005. The program proposed that double compacts between the international community, government and the population of a country could be used as a basis for organizing aid and other interventions, and that an annual sovereignty index to measure state effectiveness be compiled.

Ghani was tipped as a candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the United Nations at the end of 2006[30] in a front-page report in the Financial Times that quoted him as saying, "I hope to win, through ideas." Carlos Pascual of the Brookings Institution was also quoted, praising Ghani's "tremendous intellect, talent and capacity."[31]

In 2005, Ghani gave keynote speeches for meetings including the American Bar Association's International Rule of Law Symposium, the Trans-Atlantic Policy Network, the annual meeting of the Norwegian Government's development staff, CSIS's meeting on UN reform, the UN–OECD–World Bank's meeting on Fragile States and TED Global.[32] He contributed to the Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Finance minister of Afghanistan[edit]

He carried out extensive reforms, including issuing a new currency, computerizing treasury operations, instituting a single treasury account, adopting a policy of balanced budgets and using budgets as the central policy instrument, centralizing revenue collection, tariff reform and overhauling customs. He instituted regular reporting to the cabinet, the public and international stakeholders as a tool of transparency and accountability, and required donors to focus their interventions on three sectors, improving accountability with government counterparts and preparing a development strategy that held Afghans more accountable for their own future development. The National Solidarity Program[33] covers 13,000 of the country's estimated 20,000 villages.

2009 presidential election[edit]

Ghani at a meeting in Panjshir Province in 2011

In January 2009 an article by Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute included Ghani on a list of fifteen possible candidates in the 2009 Afghan presidential election.[34][35]

On 7 May 2009, Ashraf Ghani registered as a candidate in the 2009 Afghan presidential election. Ghani's campaign emphasized the importance of: a representative administration; good governance; a dynamic economy and employment opportunities for the Afghan people.[36] Unlike other major candidates, Ghani asked the Afghan diaspora to support his campaign and provide financial support.[37] He appointed Mohammed Ayub Rafiqi as one of his vice president candidate deputies, and paid for the noted Clinton campaign chief strategist James Carville as a campaign advisor.[38]

Preliminary results placed Ghani fourth in a field of 38, securing roughly 3% of the votes.[39]


On 28 January 2010, Ghani attended the International Conference on Afghanistan in London, pledging his support to help rebuild their country. Ghani presented his ideas to Karzai as an example of the importance of cooperation among Afghans and with the international community, supporting Karzai's reconciliation strategy. Ghani said hearing Karzai's second inaugural address in November 2009 and his pledges to fight corruption, promote reconciliation and replace international security forces persuaded him to help.[40]

Presidency (2014–2021)[edit]

President Ghani sitting with Abdullah Abdullah and John Kerry in July 2014
Ghani with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Ufa, Russia, 2015

After announcing his candidacy for the 2014 elections, Ghani tapped General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a prominent Uzbek politician and former military official in Karzai's government and Sarwar Danish, an ethnic Hazara, who also served as the justice minister in Karzai's cabinet, as his vice presidential candidates.[41]

Ghani meeting with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in Saadabad Palace
Ghani with U.S. President Donald Trump in October 2017
Ghani with US defense secretary Mark Esper at the Dilkusha Mansion Garden of the Arg in Kabul
Ghani with U.S. president Joe Biden in June 2021

After none of the candidates managed to win more than 50% of the vote in the first round of the election, Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the two front runners from the first round, contested in a run-off election, which was held on 14 June 2014.

Initial results from the run-off elections showed Ghani as the overwhelming favourite to win the elections. However, allegations of electoral fraud resulted in a stalemate, threats of violence and the formation of a parallel government by the camp of his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. On 7 August 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kabul to broker a deal that outlined an extensive audit of nearly 8 million votes and formation of a national unity government with a new role for a chief executive officer who would carry out meaningful functions within the president's administration. After a three-month audit process, which was supervised by the United Nations with financial support from the U.S. government, the Independent Election Commission announced Ghani as president after Ghani agreed to a national unity deal. Initially, the election commission said it would not formally announce specific results. It later released a statement that said Ghani managed to secure 55.4% and Abdullah Abdullah secured 43.5% of the vote, although it declined to release the individual vote results. In September 2019, an explosion near an election rally attended by President Ashraf Ghani killed 24 people and injured 31 others, but Ghani was unhurt.[42]

Ghani signed a law in September 2020 requiring mothers' names to be added to children's ID cards, in addition to fathers' names, which has been seen as a win for women's rights activists in Afghanistan.[43]

At age 65, Ghani became the oldest inaugurated Afghan ruler since the foundation of the Durrani Empire in 1747. At his 2019 re-election, at age 70, he overtook Mohammed Daoud Khan to become the oldest incumbent president.

Economy and trade[edit]

During his tenure, Ghani strengthened ties with Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, with which it has made deals to increase mutual trading.[44][45] New trade routes have also been launched within the wider region. The Chabahar Port in Iran allows increased trading with India whilst avoiding Pakistani territory.[46] A railway line from Khaf in Iran to Herat in Afghanistan is set to be opened in late 2018.[47][48] In 2017, a railway line from Turkmenistan was extended to Aqina in Afghanistan, the precursor of the "Lapis Lazuli" transport corridor that was signed by Ghani that same year and would link Afghanistan to the Caucasus and the Black Sea.[49] Other regional projects include the CASA-1000 hydroelectricity transmission from Central Asia, and the TAPI gas pipeline, expected to be completed by 2018 and 2019 respectively.[50] In January 2018 at the inauguration of the Khan Steel iron smelting plant in Kabul, Ghani said that he is aiming for Afghanistan to become a steel exporter.[51]

Ghani with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi

In 2015, a survey conducted by the Afghan news channel TOLO News showed that the popularity of Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan had fallen dramatically with only 27.5% of the respondents claiming that they were satisfied with his leadership.[52]

Relations with Pakistan and India[edit]

Since his election, Ghani wanted to improve relations with Pakistan, which in turn could pave the way for peace talks with the Taliban.[citation needed] He refused to recognize the border with Pakistan, known as the Durand Line, which Pakistan views as an existential issue.[53] He made his first visit to Pakistan on 14 November 2014, meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.[54] However, after many terror attacks in Afghanistan which were largely blamed on Pakistan, and failed Taliban peace talks, Ghani grew increasingly cold to Pakistan.[55] Ghani claimed that Pakistan had hit an "undeclared war of aggression" against Afghanistan.[56] Following two deadly Taliban/Haqqani attacks in Kabul in January 2018, Ghani called Pakistan the "center of the Taliban".[57] Tolo News while quoting an unnamed source alleged that Ashraf Ghani had refused to take a call from the Pakistani prime minister, instead he sent a NDS delegation to hand over evidence that the terrorists were supported by Pakistan.[58] However, Afghan envoy Omar Zakhilwal rejected such reports regarding Ghani's phone call rejection with Pakistan prime minister. He stated that no phone call took place between the two leaders and that such reports are baseless.[59] At a July 2021 conference in Tashkent, Ghani accused Pakistan of fomenting violence in Afghanistan through the Taliban; Pakistan accused Afghanistan of helping insurgent groups inside Pakistan (the Tehreek-e-Taliban and the Balochistan Liberation Army).[60]

One of Ghani's major objectives was to improve South Asian ties to transform the region's economy. On his first official visit to India he envisioned “breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar, and dinner in Kabul–that’s the world we seek!” He voiced the idea that a stable Afghanistan can act as a bridge between Central, South, and West Asia, given the country's centrist location.[61]

Ghani had strong ties with the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.[62][63] After Ghani's departation from Afghanistan, Modi spoke of his friendship with him on NPR.[64]

Relations with Taliban[edit]

In an interview with Vice News, Ghani said that his 'heart breaks for Taliban'. He further stated that 'Talibans are Afghans and he is president of all Afghans'.[65][66][67] Ashraf Ghani also said that he is willing to offer Afghan passports to the Taliban and to recognise them as a legitimate political group in Afghanistan, as an attempt to strike a peace deal with them.[68]

In March 2021, in an attempt to advance the peace talks, Ghani expressed his intentions of convincing the Taliban to hold fresh elections and allow forming of a new government through a democratic process.[69]

Ghani blamed the Taliban for the 2021 Kabul school bombing, but Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied involvement in the attack, in a message released to the media.[70][71] Many of the Kabul residents held Ghani responsible for the attack and raised loud chants against the Afghan government and security forces.[72]

On 2 August 2021, Ghani blamed the sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to the advance of the Taliban and said the latter had not cut ties with terrorist organizations and had escalated attacks against women, which the Taliban denied.[73] On 11 August 2021, Ghani appealed to local warlords and private militias to fight the Taliban and also appealed to a popular uprising against the Taliban.[74] On the same day, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan reported that the Taliban would not negotiate or hold peace talks with the government as long as Ghani remains as the president.[75]

Flight from Afghanistan[edit]

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on 15 August and Ghani was deposed.[76][77] That day, Ghani left Afghanistan with his wife and two close aides to Uzbekistan as the Taliban captured Kabul. The Arg, the presidential palace, was captured a few hours later by the group. Afghan officials stated that Ghani had left the presidential palace Sunday morning to go to the US embassy. He has since been described as the former president.[78][79][80][81] A senior cabinet minister said that Ghani fled to Tajikistan,[82] however it was then claimed that he landed in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.[83]

Later that day, Ghani wrote on his Facebook that he thought it was better for him to leave in order to avoid bloodshed and called on the Taliban to protect civilians and said the Taliban now faced a "historic test".[84] On 18 August 2021, the United Arab Emirates acknowledged that Ghani and his family were in that country for "humanitarian considerations."[85] He was granted stay by the government on humanitarian grounds.[86]

On 17 August, the Taliban announced that they were actively working to form a government that would be announced over the coming days.[76] The same day, first vice president Amrullah Saleh asserted that he was acting president, claiming that if the president is absent, escapes, resigns or dies then the first vice president becomes acting president.[87][88] In an 18 August taped address from the UAE, Ghani said he fled to avoid being hanged, and vowed to eventually return to Afghanistan.[89]

Former MP Elay Ershad, who had worked as Ghani's spokeswoman, was scathing in criticism. She said he was "gutless" for fleeing the country.[90] Afghanistan's Ambassador to Tajikistan, Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, stated that Interpol should apprehend Ghani for embezzling public funds.[91] The Russian embassy in Kabul alleged that Ghani fled with "four cars and a helicopter" full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in.[92] Ashraf Ghani, speaking on 18 August 2021 in UAE, has stated that the accusations are baseless.[93] To this day, no evidence of the accusation has been presented. A former senior official stated that Ghani left in haste. He said "He went to Termez in Uzbekistan, where he spent one night and then from there to the UAE (United Arab Emirates). There was no money with him. He literally just had the clothes he was wearing."[94]

On 8 September 2021, Ghani released a video where he apologized to the Afghan people and repeated that he left to avoid "bloody street fighting". He also strongly denied stealing money from the country when he fled. Ghani said that "leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens."[95]

The United Nations removed Ghani's name from its list of heads of state on 15 February 2022.[96] In May 2022, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report on the collapse of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan government. The SIGAR described Ghani as a "paranoid president... afraid of his own countrymen" and that many of Ghani's dismissals of top military generals "undermined morale" of the ANA. The SIGAR report also reported that Ghani feared that the US was "plotting a coup" against him.[97]

SIGAR released a report on 9 August 2022 on the investigation of Ghani's flight from Kabul. The report could not conclude the Russian embassy claim that he fled with bags of millions of dollars, but added that it was “unlikely to be true” that he and his aides "managed to pack tens of millions in cash", citing difficulties in vehicular transportation, helicopter load, and the short period of time.[98] On the anniversary of Ghani's departure, he commented:

The reason I left was because I did not want to give the Taliban and their supporters the pleasure of yet again humiliating an Afghan president and making him sign over the legitimacy of the government [...] I've never been afraid. You've seen repeatedly rockets have landed around me and I've not moved. And it was a split second decision because they'd entered Kabul and the US embassy had already (been) evacuated.[99]

He also rejected once again the reported millions of cash he flew in, citing a SIGAR report from June 2022 which found that the rumored amount would have been difficult to conceal: "it would be somewhat larger than a standard American three-seater couch. This block would have weighed 3,722 pounds, or nearly two tonnes. The Mi-17 helicopters that the group flew on do not have separate cargo holds. Therefore, all of the cargo would have been visible in the cabin next to the passengers."[100]

Political views[edit]

Ghani is a progressive modernist with the belief and goal to "transform Afghanistan from a tribal, patronage-based society to a modern technocratic state".[15] He is a fond admirer of both King Amanullah Khan, who was a progressive Afghan monarch in the 1920s,[101][102] and General Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan, a former prime minister of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, who served as the first president of the Republic of Afghanistan in the 1970s.[103]

Personal life[edit]

President Ghani at a conference in 2014

Ashraf Ghani is married to Rula Saade,[104] who was born into a Lebanese Christian family.[105] The couple married after they met during their studies at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon during the 1970s.[106] They eventually settled in the United States and obtained U.S. citizenship. However, Ghani renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2009 so he could run in Afghan elections.[1]

Ashraf and Rula Ghani have two children, a daughter, Mariam, a Brooklyn-based visual artist,[107] and a son, Tarek, who was a national security and foreign policy advisor to 2020 presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg.[108] Both were born in the United States and carry U.S. citizenship and passports. In an unusual move for a politician in Afghanistan, Ghani at his presidential inauguration in 2014 publicly thanked his wife, acknowledging her with an Afghan name, Bibi Gul.[106] "I want to thank my partner, Bibi Gul, for supporting me and Afghanistan," he said. "She has always supported Afghan women and I hope she continues to do so."[109]

Ashraf Ghani also owns 200 acres of land in Surkhab area of Logar province. Abdul Baqi Ahmadzai, who is close to Ashraf Ghani, claims that Ashraf Ghani inherited a lot of land from his father. However, Ashraf Ghani bought this 200 acres of land separately in Logar province.[110]

Ghani lost most of his stomach after suffering from cancer in the 1990s. It is said that Ghani wakes up every morning before five, and reads for two to three hours.[111]

He is the older brother of Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, an Afghan politician who is the Grand Council Chieftain of the Kuchis.[112] Unlike his brother, Hashmat Ghani did not flee Afghanistan. When interviewed, he said, "If I were to flee what would become of my people, my tribe. My roots are here, what kind of message would that send if I just fled and left my people in their time of need?"[113]


On 2 February 2020, Ashraf Ghani made controversial remarks while talking about Timur and Muhammad of Ghor[114] which angered the Uzbek population of Afghanistan.[115] He made those remarks while delivering a speech to a group of Afghan students on History, Culture, and the National Identity.[115][116] Ghani stated that Muhammad of Ghor destroyed Afghanistan's central irrigation system while Genghis Khan demolished the irrigation system of the northern provinces. Ghani also referred to Turkic conqueror Amir Timur by his Persian-origin epithet "Timur Lang" (Timur the Lame) and stated that Timur wiped-out the irrigation system for Sistan, Farah, and Helmand provinces.[116] His remarks regarding Timur were considered offensive to Uzbeks, according to experts, and drew condemnation from Afghanistan's Uzbek population.[115]

Following his remarks, residents of Faryab province staged protests and demanded an apology from Ashraf Ghani. The protesters threatened that they would take serious action if Ghani did not apologize for his remarks.[117] Abdul Rashid Dostum, former vice president of Afghanistan and an ethnic Uzbek, also demanded an apology from Ashraf Ghani. Bashir Ahmad Tahyanj, spokesperson of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, said that "Ghani has a personal bias towards historic figures, honorable ethnicities, the history and culture of the people who live in Afghanistan. This is not his first time.”[115] However, in a statement, the Afghan government palace defended Ghani's remarks and stated that "what Ghani said about Timur was not offensive or insulting".[116][115][118]


Ghani is the coauthor with Clare Lockhart of Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World (2008).[119] Along with Lockhart, he was listed on the 'Top 100 global thinkers list' for 2010 by Foreign Policy.[120]


  1. ^ Pashto: محمد اشرف غنی احمدزی [mʊˈhamad aʃˈraf ɣaˈni ahmadˈzai]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Preceded by 5th President of Afghanistan
Succeeded byas Supreme Leader