Who Stole $169 Million From His Country

By Ben Norton
September 3, 2021

Before he stole $169 million and fled his failed state in disgrace, Afghanistan’s puppet President Ashraf Ghani was formed in elite American universities, given US citizenship, trained in neoliberal economics by the World Bank, glorified in the media as an “incorruptible” technocrat, and coached by powerful DC think tanks like the Atlantic Council.

No individual is more emblematic of the corruption, criminality, and moral rot at the heart of the 20-year US occupation of Afghanistan than President Ashraf Ghani.

As the Taliban took over his country this August, advancing with the momentum of a bowling ball rolling down a steep hill, seizing many major cities without firing a single bullet, Ghani fled in disgrace.

The US-backed puppet leader allegedly made his escape with $169 million that he stolefrom the public coffers. Ghani reportedly crammed the cash into four cars and a helicopter, before flying to the United Arab Emirates, which granted him asylum on supposed “humanitarian” grounds.

The president’s corruption had been exposed before. It was known, for instance, that Ghani had brokered shady deals with his brother and US military-linked private companies, letting them tap into Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in mineral reserves. But his last-minute exit represented an entirely new level of treachery.

Ghani’s senior aides and officials promptly turned on him. His defense minister, General Bismillah Mohammadi, wrote on Twitter in disgust, “They tied our hands behind our backs and sold the homeland. Damn the rich man and his gang.”

While Ghani’s dramatic desertion stands out as a stark metaphor for the depravity of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan – and how it made a handful of people very, very rich – the rot goes much deeper. His rise to power was carefully managed by some of the most esteemed and well-heeled think tanks and academic institutions in the United States.

Indeed, Western governments and their stenographers in the corporate media enjoyed a veritable love affair with Ashraf Ghani. He was a poster boy for the exportation of neoliberalism to what had been Taliban territory, their very own Afghan Milton Friedman, a faithful disciple of Francis Fukuyama – who proudly blurbed Ghani’s book.

Washington was thrilled with Ghani’s reign in Afghanistan, because it had finally found a new way to implement Augusto Pinochet’s economic program, but without the PR cost of torturing and massacring droves of dissenters in stadiums. Of course, it was the foreign military occupation that replaced Pinochet’s death squads, concentration camps, and helicopter assassinations. But the distance between Ghani and his neocolonial protectors helped NATO market Afghanistan as a new model for capitalist democracy, one that could be exported to other parts of the Global South…….

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