Ashraf Ghani the ex-president of Afghanistan revealed that when he woke up on 15 August he had “no inkling” it would be his last day in Afghanistan.
It was only when his plane left Kabul that he realised he was going, Mr Ghani said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He was heavily criticised and accused of abandoning the country at the time. He is now in the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Ghani made the comments in conversation with Gen Sir Nick Carter, the UK’s former Chief of the Defence Staff, who was guest-editing the Today programme on Thursday.
As the day started, Mr Ghani recalled, Taliban fighters had agreed not to enter Kabul – “but two hours later, this was not the case”.
“Two different factions of the Taliban were closing in from two different directions,” Mr Ghani explained. “And the possibility of a massive conflict between them that would destroy the city of five million and bring havoc to the people was enormous.”
He agreed to let his national security adviser and wife leave Kabul, then waited for a car to take him to the ministry of defence.
The car never came. Instead, the “terrified” chief of presidential security came to him to say that if Mr Ghani took a stand, “they will all be killed”.
“He did not give me more than two minutes,” Mr Ghani said. “My instructions had been to prepare for departure for [the city of] Khost. He told me that Khost had fallen and so had Jalalabad.
“I did not know where we will go. Only when we took off, it became clear that we were leaving [Afghanistan]. So this really was sudden.”